by: ESPN.com Updated:CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
Free agent wide receiver Steve Smith has signed a three-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens announced the signing of the 34-year-old Smith on Friday.
Smith was released by the Carolina Panthers on Thursday after 13 seasons and headed to Baltimore to talk to the Ravens, who were eager to add provide quarterback Joe Flacco another target.
The Panthers will play the Ravens next season in Baltimore.
Panthers General Manager Dave Gettlemen released a statement on the team's website Thursday saying releasing Smith was not an easy decision.
"When I took this position I knew that difficult decisions would have to be made along the way. To move on from a storied veteran player is probably the most difficult of all. A decision not to be taken lightly. However, after much thought I feel very strongly it's the right one. As I've stated many times, all decisions I make will be in the long-term best interest of the Carolina Panthers," Gettleman's statement said.
Read Gettleman's full statement below.
"Steve has been an important part of this team since I have been head coach and before my arrival,” says head coach Ron Rivera. “I have coached against him and have had the benefit of having him on the Panthers. He is a great competitor with Hall of Fame worthy statistics and has made a great contribution to our community. I wish him nothing but the best."
A veteran of 13 NFL seasons, all with the Panthers, Smith holds more than 30 career, single-season and single-game franchise records on offense and special teams.
He is Carolina's all-time leader with 75 total touchdowns (67 receiving, six returning, two rushing), 67 receiving touchdowns, 836 receptions, 12,197 receiving yards and 43 games with 100 or more receiving yards.
GALLERY: Steve Smith in Panthers uniform
Smith has made a catch in a team-record 106 consecutive games. He stands second in team history with 182 games played, 161 games started and 454 points scored.
He had 64 receptions for 746 yards and four touchdowns last season, helping the Panthers go 12-4 in the regular season and capture the NFC South title.
ESPN's Adam Schefter said on Twitter the Ravens have emerged as the front-runner to land Smith, per sources.
On Wednesday, Smith's longtime representative Derrick Fox told The Associated Press that Smith "is not going to play for the Panthers next year, I know that. I just don't know when that transaction is going to take place."
He said the Panthers have not asked Smith, 34, to restructure his contract, which calls for him to make $7 million under this year's salary cap.
Despite releasing the five-time Pro Bowler, the club will have to pay him $3 million this season as part of the three-year extension he signed in 2012. Smith's contract runs through 2016.
Also, Smith will count $5 million under this year's cap. The team could designate him for a June 1 release, which would allow it to split that money over the next two seasons.
Fox said Smith, a 13-year veteran, would have preferred to finish his career with Carolina, the team that drafted him in the third round in 2001. He said Smith was "disappointed and surprised" when Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman talked about the receiver's future in uncertain terms at the NFL scouting combine last month.
"Where we are disappointed is the fact he signed an extension to stay loyal to the club and complete his career as a Panther," Fox said. "That is why we did the long-term team deal. Now we are at a crossroads where the Panthers don't want him anymore."
Smith is Carolina's all-time leading receiver with 836 catches for 12,197 yards and 67 touchdowns. He is 19th all time in receiving yards and 25th in receptions.
Fox said Smith plans to continue his playing career when the Panthers cut ties.
"At 34, they could have kept him and run him in the slot," Fox said. "Steve wants to play in the slot. But he can't play the slot with the current roster, and he hasn't been able to play in the slot with the rosters in the past."