Eagles sign WR Steve Smith from Giants

Steve Smith is dangerous when healthy, but he recently had microfracture surgery. (Julie Jacobson/AP file photo)

The Eagles on Wednesday signed yet another free agent - former New York Giants wide receiver Steve Smith - and in the process managed to swipe a key piece from an NFC East rival.

The question, however, is whether the Giants were outbid for Smith or whether they believed that the receiver, who had microfracture knee surgery in December, was damaged goods and simply let him go.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin recently said that Smith had a "long haul."

"I would disagree with that," Smith said during a conference call. "Personally, I feel good. I've been running . . . cutting."

Smith wouldn't rule out a return by the regular-season opener, although it appears unlikely considering the severity of microfracture surgery. The Eagles could place him on the physically unable to perform list - thus saving a roster spot for six games - but a team source said Smith may be able to play earlier than some thought.

"I'm not sure how far I am from playing," Smith said. "I think I'm pretty close."

Close enough to start practicing soon?

"If you looked to me, I would practice tomorrow," Smith said. "But we want to be extra careful with this thing."

If Jeremy Maclin's unidentified illness is more serious than the Eagles are letting on, Smith would help fill a need. But team sources indicated that acquiring Smith had nothing to do with Maclin's long-range health. Maclin has been in training camp for more than a week but has yet to practice. Eagles coach Andy Reid recently said that he expected Maclin to be ready for the start of the season.

The Eagles signed Smith, according to a league source, to a one-year deal worth $2 million guaranteed and with several hard-to-earn incentives.

Smith is considered one of the better slot receivers in the game. In 2009, he caught 107 passes for 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns. Last season, his production slipped, though, and he snagged only 48 receptions for 529 yards and three scores before his injury.

Smith injured the left knee in December when he got tangled up with Minnesota linebacker Chad Greenway in a postponed game played at Ford Stadium in Detroit. He said there was cartilage damage, hence the microfracture procedure.

Eagles defensive end Victor Abiamiri also was trying to come back from microfracture knee surgery but recently suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon tear. Likewise, defensive end Brandon Graham is trying to come back from the same operation.

Smith will enter a crowded field of Eagles receivers. The team is stocked with DeSean Jackson, Maclin, Jason Avant, and Riley Cooper. The Eagles also have receiving options in running back LeSean McCoy and tight end Brent Celek.

"Great players all want the ball, and they want statistics. But I think when you're winning . . . that means more," Smith said. "Guys are going to have to put egos aside."

Smith wrote on his Facebook page that the Eagles showed "MUCH" more interest in him than the Giants.


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, jmclane@phillynews.com, or @Jeff_McLane on Twitter.