CHARLOTTE – A Super Bowl champion as both a Raven and as an Eagle, wide receiver Torrey Smith could today be considered a rare bird.
Smith is coming off a solid season and particularly productive postseason that helped Philadelphia win its first Super Bowl, and he's under contract through 2019 at a salary that sure looks reasonable compared to what pass catchers are netting in free agency.
And yet last week, days before the new league year began, Smith was informed that he was bound for a new team.
Some might be surly. Not Smith. Not once he learned he was to become a Panther.
"I just embraced it," said Smith, who thanked the Eagles for keeping him in the loop during a process he understood was spurred by a tight salary cap situation in Philly. "If I were a free agent, this would have been one of my favorite choices, one of my top destinations. I get to come here in a simple way and not have to worry about the circus that is free agency.
"It's pretty cool, and I'm excited about the opportunity."
Smith came to Charlotte earlier in the week to get a physical – hanging out with former Panther and former Ravens teammate Steve Smith while passing through – and then on Wednesday the trade finally became official. While Torrey Smith likened Steve Smith to a big brother, his relationship with a current Carolina star will be front and center soon enough.
"I know Cam. We came in together, used to work out together a few offseasons. That helps, being comfortable with him," Smith said of Newton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft when Smith went No. 58 to the Ravens. "We were the same year, so you meet people through the process. We both happened to be Under Armour athletes, so that helped in terms of rubbing elbows.
"We've been able to text a little bit – haven't talked on the phone yet. But everyone says, 'You're going to love the team, love the organization, love the city.' That comes from guys that I trust, even guys who contacted me who aren't on this team now who told me, 'Man, you're going to love it.'
"That's all I needed to hear. I'm very comfortable with the move and thankful."
Smith wouldn't go so far as to say he's looking for a fresh start – winning a Super Bowl can have that effect. But he was the third option at receiver for the Eagles last season – further down the depth chart than accustomed. The blazing fast Smith averaged 898 yards and 7.5 touchdowns receptions through four seasons with the Ravens to start his pro career. He then signed with the 49ers, where he totaled 930 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons for a team that went 7-25.
San Francisco released Smith just before free agency cranked up a year ago, and the Eagles wasted no time signing him. He had 430 receiving yards and two touchdowns playing with/behind re-emerging top target Alshon Jeffery and emerging third-year target Nelson Agholor.
In Carolina, he joins a receivers room trying to figure out things beyond Devin Funchess.
"For me, I'm definitely excited, but I try not to look at it from a selfish point of view because it's a new team and I have to prove myself," Smith said. "Nothing is handed to me. I'm confident in my abilities, and I'm going to give it everything I have to be the best player I can be and play the best I can play. If I do that, that will be more than enough.
"I'm just looking forward to coming in, working hard, proving myself to the guys on this team. I want to show that the trade was worth it and ultimately want to do my part to help this team win games."
And that is something that Smith, who should know coming off a championship season, believes the Panthers are in positon to do. The Eagles and the Panthers weren't far from sporting identical regular season records last season, the difference created by Philadelphia's 28-23 triumph in Week 6 in Charlotte.
"It's about being in the right situation in terms of winning, and this is a team that's right there," Smith said. "I've been fortunate to be able to go to the big game twice and win it both times, and this is an organization I've played against a few times and they're very tough, very competitive. They're right there."