Wide receiver Steve Smith visited Giants training camp this week for a physical, as the team evaluated whether to bring him back. Giants coach Tom Coughlin opined that Smith was "a ways away."
Today, the Eagles announced that they have signed Smith to a 1-year contract, which a league source said guarantees the wideout $2 million, and gives him a chance to mayube double that if he reaches some lofty incentives.
Smith is coming off December microfracture surgery on his left knee and is not expected to be ready to start the season, but he could provide the Eagles with another top-shelf weapon as a slot receiver when he is healthy. Smith had surgery roughly around the same time as Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham.
Smith played in nine games last season before the knee injury with 48 receptions for 529 yards and three touchdowns. But the year before, he caught a Giants record 107 passes for 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns. His 38 third-down catches that year led the NFL.
Smith told a conference call with reporters that he waited for thigns to work out with the Giants, but they never did, and eventually, agent Ben Dogra got an offer from the Eagles that Smith didn't think the Giants could match.
"I'm not sure how far away I am from playing; I feel I'm pretty close," Smith said. A source close to the situatiion said the Eagles are hoping Smith will be close enough to playing when the season starts Sept. 11 that he won't have to start the year on the PUP list, which he would have to stay on for at least six weeks.
Smith expressed hope that "if things work out," he could end up here for more than a year.
Smith's signing obviously casts more shadows on the mysterious Jeremy Maclin "illness." Eagles coach Andy Reid again yesterday declined to say what is wrong with Maclin, saying that tests are still being evaluated. Maclin and a team source have said they are not seriously concerned, and a team source said last night that the Smith signing was nor related to Maclin's situation.
Smith said he disagreed with Coughlin's assessment.
"It's going to be crazy and tough the first time playing against the Giants," Smith said.
“Like I’ve said many times before, Howie Roseman and I are always keeping our eyes open for good football players and players that we think can help our football team win,” Reid said in a statement. “And Steve Smith certainly fits that category. He’s a Pro Bowl quality receiver that we will work into our offense as soon as he is ready to go. We feel very good about our current group of receivers and Steve adds another dimension to that position. He’s played very well against us in the past few years and we’re happy to have him on board.”
Smith, 26, played his first four NFL seasons with the Giants, who selected him in the second round of the 2007 NFL draft. The 5’-11”, 195-pound receiver has totaled 220 receptions for 2,386 yards and 11 TDs in 46 career regular season games (26 starts). In five career playoff contests, Smith has 16 catches for 169 yards.
On his Facebook page, Smith thanked the Giants and their fans: "I will always cherish my time in NY and the super bowl victory.. This was obviously not an easy decision for me or something I ever expected but unfortunately the business aspect proved that the eagles wanted me to be part of their organization MUCH more than the Giants did.. A special thanks to my WR buddies, coach Gilbride, all of u amazing fans on here, and the entire giants organization for drafting me.. Time for a new beginning."
As for what Smith's impact could mean, especially to the Giants who are losing him, here is what Eli Manning told ESPN.com today:
"When we've gotten in trouble in the past, we always had Steve in the slot, and that's kind of all we worked on -- Steve's in the slot, there you go, he's got it down," the Giants' quarterback told me before this afternoon's practice. "And so last year, when he got hurt, we were in trouble. No one else really knew how to play it. So this year we're putting everybody -- Hakeem (Nicks) is in there, (Mario) Manningham's getting in here, we're getting a lot of people in there to get them to learn some of it, so that'll probably create some more opportunities for us to move guys around and get some mismatches."
An interesting sidelight: Dogra is also the agent for Nmandi Asomugha, whom he brought to the Eagles for less money than Asomugha could have gotten elsewhere. Dogra did not return a message seeking comment last night.