Smith Goes Green: Another Mistake?

The Giants had so much time to re-sign WR Steve Smith that it seemed a mere formality. So when he landed in Philadelphia Wednesday night, it came as a shock. But what, exactly, did the Giants lose?

The Philadelphia Eagles have obviously taken a page out of Washington owner Daniel Snyder's playbook and collected a fantasy team of free agents this season.

Since football opened for business, they have signed an outstanding cornerback in Oakland's Nnamdi Asomugha, a veteran backup quarterback in Tennessee's Vince Young, Miami's former starting tailback Ronnie Brown, a pass-rushing defensive end in Tennessee's Jason Babin, and Steve Smith.

The Giants, meanwhile, have seen more talent depart than arrive -- Barry Cofield, Smith, Kevin Boss, not to mention the cutting of Rich Seubert and Shaun O'Hara. And does anybody really know how this Osi Umenyiora situation ultimately will shake out?

But this Smith deal put the situation between the two NFC East contenders into perspective. Sure, the Eagles picked up one of the best third-down receivers in the game; swiped him right from under the Giants' nose for a one-year, $4 million contract that came with a $2 million guarantee. The Giants had a lesser offer on the table, but Smith went for the green in every respect and triggered a flood of angry missives from his Facebook followers.

If you put Smith's departure next to that of Boss, one could easily assume the Giants' sky is falling. They might be right, too. Boss' absence is going to hurt the passing game more than anyone seems to realize. And, indeed, the name of Steve Smith is synonymous with clutch performance.

But here's the thing. The mistake of losing Boss to Oakland has done more damage than Smith's departure to a hated division rival, simply because the Steve Smith Giants fans came to love may not be the same Steve Smith that takes the field in 2011.

He's had microfracture surgey, and that's always a 50-50 proposition. Kenny Phillips came back successfully from it last year, but there's no guarantee Smith will. That's why the Giants low-balled him in the first place. They figured he'd have to sit past the first month of the season, and then who knows what he'd produce after that? The Eagles believe he can get back on the field within a couple of weeks of the opener. But they've taken a gamble here.

It won't be surprising to see Smith fall into non-factor status as Michael Vick looks deep and medium for DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant, Jeremy Maclin, and tight end Brent Celek.

Still, the Giants would have loved to have him back, cheap. It didn't happen. And let's not hear any carping from the front office that Smith didn't give them a chance to match the Eagles' offer, even though he promised. Smith owed the Giants nothing. And the Giants had plenty of time to sweeten things up and sign him to a deal worthy of a receiver who just two years ago made a team-record 107 catches.

The fact is, the Giants must not have expected much from Smith this year. The Eagles expect more. The bet here is that the Eagles won't get the full return on their investment.

For a team playing the fantasy game, though, a $2 million guarantee is a relatively modest gamble.

For the Giants, not investing in Boss will prove more damaging than failing to keep Smith.

It'll be interesting to see how it all works out.


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