Smith played four seasons with the New York Giants and was a Pro Bowl receiver in 2009 when he caught 107 passes for 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns. Thirty-eight of his receptions came on third downs that season as Smith ascended to the upper echelon of wide receivers in the NFL.
Knee problems plagued Smith last season, however, and he was limited to just nine games and 48 receptions. Knee surgery, microfracture no less, effectively removed Smith from the free-agent field. And as recently as Wednesday afternoon, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was quoted as saying it was going to be "kind of a long haul" for Smith to return to the playing field after his surgery.
The Eagles think that isn't the case. Not at all. Maybe Coughlin was just blowing smoke and trying to scare teams off. The Eagles weren't scared. Not at all. They say the signing is about adding more good football players and is not, as many speculated right away, a hedge should Jeremy Maclin not be ready to play as he recovers from an unexplained illness.
Adding Smith is about adding more talent to the roster. Is there any negative to this move? At all? Smith has to come in and earn a roster spot and playing time, and he said in a conference call on Wednesday night that he thinks he can play much sooner.
"If it was up to me, I think I could go practice tomorrow," said Smith, who knows that head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder and the team doctors have the final call. "I think I'm ahead of the curve. Hopefully, I will get out there really soon."
If that is the case, then the Eagles have made themselves that much more dangerous. At his best, Smith is a cut-on-a-dime route runner with exceptional hands, toughness and enough speed to create separation. Smith would add another very difficult matchup for any defense in the league. And when the Eagles can throw to a stable of receivers that could feature DeSean Jackson, Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Johnnie Lee Higgins and Smith, hey, that's called being loaded.
There would be no team in the league that could come close to having that kind of depth.
The question marks are obvious, of course. Maclin's absence from practice has been a true mystery. The Eagles have spoken optimistically of Maclin and his outlook for this season. Cautiously, but optimistically. Maclin says he will be good to go for the season, and if that is the case he needs to get on the field in the next week or so. That is a situation to continue to monitor.
With Smith, though, there is no risk. The Eagles brought in a very good football player when he is healthy. Smith gets a chance to catch some football. The Eagles have unreal depth and competition at wide receiver should they suffer injuries down the road this season.
Truth is, the Eagles went after Smith harder than the Giants did. "Pretty diligently for weeks now," said Smith of the Eagles' involvement. Smith was hurt on a "freak play" last season and he said that he is running and cutting and running routes. Smith said he underwent microfracture surgery because it has the best success rate after rehabilitation.
Where does it go from here? Smith has to convince the athletic training staff and the medical people that he is good to go and hit the practice field. After that, if he can play at his highest level, Smith adds another considerable talent to the offense.
More talent. More options. That's what this signing is all about. Smith has a Pro Bowl pedigree, of course. He got into his little Twitter spat with LeSean McCoy, and he dissed the Eagles organization, but what do you expect? He was a Giant then.
Now he's an Eagle. And the Giants are his rival. This is a live-in-the-moment league and Smith is doing that.
"Great players all want the ball and they all want statistics but when you have an opportunity to win a lot of games and win the Super Bowl, that's what you want," said Smith. "Guys have to put their egos to the side. We're here to win."