Panthers look to find replacement for WR Smith

by: By STEVE REED, AP Sports Writer Updated:

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 11: Steve Smith #89 of the Carolina Panthers secures his helmet prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Bank of America Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)hers say they'd like to find a replacement for longtime No. 1 wide receiver Steve Smith in this year's NFL draft.

The big question is when they'll do it.

The Panthers have the 28th overall pick, but the NFC South champions have a variety of needs after getting hit hard in free agency, and could go in a number of directions with their first-round pick.

General manager Dave Gettleman says wide receiver, offensive tackle and cornerback are among the team's top needs, although he's quick to add the Panthers won't reach for a player because of need.

Gettleman says he has some reservations about drafting a receiver in the first round because it often takes them longer to assimilate to the NFL game than those who play other positions.

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