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Smith, Panthers agree to three-year extension

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By Eric Edholm

The Panthers and WR Steve Smith have agreed to a contract extension through 2015 with an option for one additional year in 2016, Pro Football Weekly has learned.

Although financial numbers were not immediately available, Smith was due to earn $7.75 million in 2012, and the Panthers likely will pay more than that amount, including guaranteed money up front, for this season. Smith’s deal is believed to be structured similarly to that of the one signed by WR Reggie Wayne with the Colts earlier this offseason, in terms of his guaranteed money and base salaries for the next three seasons.

Smith and Wayne both came into the league in 2001 and have spent their entire careers with the same clubs.

The Panthers were previously less than $1 million below the cap. This deal likely eases cap room by spreading out Smith's signing bonus over the next few seasons.

Smith was unavailable for comment this morning. He is expected to sign the new contract Tuesday afternoon at the team's facilities.

The Panthers will have to make a decision on whether to exercise the option, adding one more year to the deal through '16, in the summer of '14.

Smith’s original deal was set to run out after next season. After two seasons plagued by poor team quarterback play in '09 and '10, the NFL’s 32nd-all-time receiver had a revival season at age 32 in 2011 with rookie QB Cam Newton, catching 79 passes for 1,394 yards and seven touchdowns.

Smith is the Panthers’ all-time leading receiver, passing former teammate Muhsin Muhammad — as well as the 10,000-yard mark for his career — for that distinction last season.

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