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Hall of Fame Class of 2023 finalists announced; Steve Smith Sr. snubbed

The only former Carolina Panthers player to be named a finalist is Jared Allen, a defensive end who spent one year in Carolina.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers fans will have to wait at least another year to see one of the franchise's all-time greats make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

On Wednesday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame released its 15 finalists for the Class of 2023. The list was chiseled down from 129 nominees announced in September 2022.

The finalists represent some of the finest to play in the NFL; offensive lineman Joe Thomas, defensive end Demarcus Ware, and wide receiver Andre Johnson are some of the notable finalists who seemed destined for Canton during their playing days.

While the list features players who were on teams across the league, there is only one player who spent time with the Panthers: Jared Allen.

Allen, the four-time all-pro defensive end, spent less than one full season with Carolina after he was traded to the Panthers early in the 2015 season. Allen recorded two sacks in 12 games with the Panthers and recorded one tackle during Carolina's loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. He would retire shortly after the game.

Besides Allen, no other Carolina player earned a finalist nod. Probably the most notable snub is Steve Smith Sr., the prolific receiver who played in the league for 16 years, including 13 for the Panthers.

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Smith is the Panthers' all-time leader in receiving yards, receptions, touchdowns, and return touchdowns.

Smith had seven seasons in Carolina with over 1,000 receiving yards and caught 67 touchdowns. He played for the Panthers from 2001 to 2013.

Following his tenure with the Panthers, Smith played three solid seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. 

Smith has more receiving yards than Andre Reed, more receptions than Isaac Bruce, and more touchdown receptions than James Lofton. All three of those players are in the hall of fame. However, it should be noted that it took those players multiple years to be inducted. Smith is in just his second year of eligibility.

Compared to receiver finalists Johnson, Torry Holt, and Reggie Wayne, here's how the numbers stack up:

  • Steve Smith Sr. (2001-2016):  1031 receptions - 14731 receiving yards - 81 touchdowns
  • Andre Johnson (2003-2016): 1062 receptions - 14185 receiving yards - 70 touchdowns
  • Torry Holt (1999-2009): 920 receptions - 13382 receiving yards - 74 touchdowns 
  • Reggie Wayne (2001-2014): 1070 receptions - 14345 receiving yards - 82 touchdowns

While the three finalists certainly had formidable careers and deserve to be up in the hall of fame, Smith deserves to get in there too.

Other Panthers players that were nominated but did not make the finalists list include Jake Delhomme, Jordan Gross, Muhsin Muhammed, John Kasay, and Charles Tilman.

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The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023 will be announced on Thursday, Feb. 9.

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