Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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How Steve Smith fits in

The Eagles surprised us again Wednesday evening, signing wide receiver Steve Smith to a one-year deal.

How Steve Smith fits in

Steve Smith recorded 529 receiving yards and three touchdowns in nine games with the Giants last season. (Mike Groll/AP)
Steve Smith recorded 529 receiving yards and three touchdowns in nine games with the Giants last season. (Mike Groll/AP)

The Eagles surprised us again Wednesday evening, signing wide receiver Steve Smith to a one-year deal.

Before we try to figure out how Smith fits in, let's break down what we know about him.

He was a second-round pick in the 2007 draft (51st overall). That was 15 picks after the Eagles selected Kevin Kolb and six picks before they took Victor Abiamiri.

As a rookie, he appeared in just five games. In Smith's second season, he had 57 catches for 574 yards.

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And in his third season, Smith blew up for 107 catches, 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns. Last year, he had 48 catches for 529 yards before suffering a knee injury in Week 14 against the Vikings that required microfracture surgery.

When he's healthy, Smith (5-11, 195) is a talented receiver with a knack for getting open. His 107 catches in 2009 were second in the NFL to only Wes Welker. Smith was targeted 159 times that season, fourth-most in the NFL.

Of his 107 catches, 78 were made within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, and 99 were made within 20 yards. Andy Reid said earlier this offseason that the Eagles needed to work on their intermediate passing game. A healthy Smith would certainly help that.

He was also very good on third down in 2009, with 38 catches and 457 yards. And he had 61 catches for first downs that year, seventh-most in the NFL. In his career, eight of Smith's 11 touchdowns were red-zone scores.

Where has he lined up? Our friends over at Pro Football Focus helped with that one.

In 2010, he lined up on the outside 50.2 percent of the time and in the slot on 48.3 percent of snaps.

In 2009, he lined up outside on 42.6 percent of the snaps and in the slot 57 percent of the time.

In other words, it looks like he's pretty versatile and comfortable both inside and outside.

While Smith has not been a big-play guy (10.8 yards per reception), he did have a respectable 14 plays of 20+ yards in 2009 (tied for 20th in the NFL).

Everything with Smith comes down to health. If he's close to 100 percent physically, the Eagles can do a number of things with him. If Jeremy Maclin is healthy, they can go four wide and play without Brent Celek or LeSean McCoy at times. They can have Smith spell DeSean Jackson in the red zone. They have a capable fill-in if one of the top three guys gets injured. And they can rotate him in different positions.

The Eagles have mentioned several times how they admire how the Packers won the Super Bowl last season despite injuries.

"We didn't want to be at a point where one injury ruins our chance," Howie Roseman told SI.com's Damon Hack recently.

Smith is another asset. They saw a player with value and grabbed him. Isn't that what they did with Michael Vick on a much grander scale a couple summers ago? Isn't that what a lot of this offseason has been about?

I know the easy conclusion to draw is that the Eagles are deeply concerned about Maclin and need a replacement. But if they wanted to go that route, wouldn't they have signed a receiver that can play right away? We have no idea when Smith will be ready. I wish I could tell you something more about Maclin, but all I know is Andy Reid said he expects him to be ready in Week 1.

I'm sure the team is concerned about him. We don't even know if they know what's wrong with Maclin. So while there is clearly some connection between the Smith signing and Maclin's health, I don't know if it's as direct as it might seem on the surface.

As for Jackson, I don't think this signing has anything to do with his contract situation. Steve Smith coming off microfracture knee surgery is nowhere near Jackson at full health. They are two completely different receivers.

How it might affect Jackson is with cap space. I tried to clarify some things on that front in a post yesterday. As I explained, the Eagles can gain some cap relief if/when they sign Vick to a long-term deal. That really might be necessary now.

It seems like a low-risk/high-reward move. If Smith isn't healthy or doesn't make much of a contribution, it's only a one-year deal and the relationship will be short-lived.

If Smith is healthy, he's a versatile option that can add depth, help in the red zone and make plays on third down.

Earlier today, I posted:

What is DeSean Jackson worth?
Packers' Finley: Young shouldn't be talking


You can follow me on Twitter or become a fan of Moving the Chains on Facebook.

Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
About this blog
Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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