I’m neither a Giants nor an Eagles fan, but I was shocked when the news broke late Wednesday that Philadelphia signed former Giants wide receiver Steve Smith.
He was one of the few remaining free agents that I didn’t expect to remain available for this long. Why hadn’t another team signed the receiver who had set the Giants’ team record with 107 receptions in a single season?
His recovery from microfracture surgery certainly scared off some teams. And for good reason: it’s a major injury with a long recovery time. I also wonder if other teams thought he was an unrestricted free agent in name only, and the Giants would match any offer he received.
My first reaction is that the Eagles made an outstanding move. While DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are a solid one-two punch, the Eagles have not developed many wide receivers since Andy Reid became their head coach. The opportunity to sign an established pass catcher as good as Smith was the right move. And a one-year commitment for $2 million was certainly a reasonable price, especially since it takes a valuable player away from a division rival.
The Giants are receiving a lot of bad press for allowing a star player to leave for a bitter rival, but they might be proven right in the end. His microfracture surgery is no small thing. As John Clayton tweeted, the Eagles think Smith can play by the start of the season while the Giants think he’ll back at mid-season. Either way, it’s possible he doesn’t regain his 2009 form until the 2012 season.
And as I wrote a year ago, 2009 was his first (and so far only) great season. He wasn’t an elite performer in 2007 or 2008. His 2010 season was a down year too, but that in part can be blamed on the knee injury. It was reported this time last year that Smith wanted a multi-year deal similar to the $10 million per year contract the Packers gave to WR Greg Jennings. While Jennings was outstanding in back-to-back seasons (2007 and 2008), Smith was looking for a similar contract after only one great season. It was understandable that the Giants wanted to wait and see if he could duplicate his 2009 stats in 2010. And since he fell short of that goal, it was probably wise that they waited.
So what did the Eagles gain? They gained a talented receiver who should only get stronger as the season goes on. They could use another proven receiver now while Jeremy Maclin deals with what is currently a mystery illness. Maybe he’ll only be effective late in the season, but that might be just fine for the team and their fans.
As far as the Giants are concerned, Smith’s departure leaves them without an established number three wide receiver, and it’s too late in free agency to recruit a solid replacement. They have some options on the roster, and they’ll have to hope than one of those unproven players can step up.