Panthers' Gross retires, WR Smith's future unclear

By Steve Reed

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 26 2014 6:08 p.m. MST

FILE - In this Sept. 16, 2012 file photo, Carolina Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross (69) keeps New Orleans Saints' Will Smith (91) blocked as Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) looks for a receiver during the first half of an NFL game in Charlotte, N.C. The Panthers will have to find someone new to protect Newton's blindside following the retirement of Gross.

Bob Leverone, File, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Coach Ron Rivera is non-committal on whether wide receiver Steve Smith will be back with the Carolina Panthers next season.

When Rivera was asked Wednesday at a press conference announcing Jordan Gross' retirement if he thinks Smith will be back next season, the coach said, "A lot of it will have to do with what our situation and circumstances are going to be. I think as we go forward, just what the role is going to be we'll see."

Smith, the franchise's all-time leader in receptions and touchdowns, is under contract through 2016 but is set to cost the team $7 million under the 2014 NFL salary cap.

Rivera says the Panthers need to clear cap room and says free agency may determine what happens with the 34-year-old Smith.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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