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Steve Smith Ditches Big Blue for Eagles Green

Eagles swoop in unexpectedly and grab Eli's favorite receiver.

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Aug 15, 2011  |  Updated 12:54 PM EDT
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Steve Smith couldn't beat the Eagles, so he joined them.

In a move that was even less expected than Philly's last-minute snag of Nnamdi Asomugha as a free agent, the new beast of the NFC East swooped in Wednesday night and took Smith away from the Giants.

It is a one-year deal with $2 million in guaranteed money and worth as much as $4 million overall, more than the Giants were willing to spend to keep Eli Manning's favorite receiver on the team.

Smith's departure is shocking because all signs pointed to a return to the Giants in recent days. He worked out for the team, spent time at Giants headquarters and seemed only to be waiting for a determination of his health after microfracture surgery before signing a contract.

The view of that injury likely played a role in Smith's final decision. Tom Coughlin expressed the team's view that Smith's recovery would be a "long haul," something Smith disagreed with on a conference call Wednesday and something he indicated Eagles doctors disagreed with as well.

And so he flew south down the turnpike and juiced up a rivalry that was already percolating at a very high level after years of Eagles head-to-head domination and the NFL's biggest offseason. That Smith might not even be active when the two teams meet in Week Three does little to damper what should be a frenzied reaction from Giants fans.

Their response figures to be two-fold. The first can be seen on Smith's Facebook page (where he said the Eagles wanted him a lot more than the Giants), where Giants fans have come in droves to call their former hero a traitor, a snake in the grass and plenty of other things that aren't particularly nice.

The rest of the vitriol will be directed inwards with G.M. Jerry Reese likely to take the brunt of the blows. This is the third time this offseason that the Giants have expressed public interest in a player only to shy away from actually showing him the money when it came time to get a deal done.

Reese could have chosen to go in a different direction and bring in new blood or he could have stuck with the old guard. He chose to do neither, and it is awfully hard to sell indecisiveness and inactivity as a real plan.

As with Plaxico Burress and Kevin Boss, the argument for the Giants balking at the price tag is fairly easy to make. Smith won't play 16 games this year and no one knows how many times he'll be able to answer the bell when all is said and done.

But, as in those other two cases, the problem is with the flip side. Letting players leave if you don't think they are worth the money or healthy enough to contribute is fine, but not doing anything and shrugging your shoulders about the salary cap is not.

It paints a picture of a front office that came to work unprepared and without a plan about how to move forward. The salary cap issues that exist were avoidable, just look at Eli Manning's thoughts about how much the team missed Smith and ask if he might have given up a little cash in the short term to make for a better team, and the team's attitude seems to be that players should be happy to play for the Giants regardless of the fact that they won't pay them nearly as much as other teams.

It's pretty baffling to see that kind of smugness from a team that overpaid Michael Boley, Chris Canty and Antrel Rolle in free agency in recent years.

This doesn't change what we said Wedesday about not writing off the Giants. There are ways to address these departures -- think Jerricho Cotchery though, not Randy Moss -- and there's still plenty of talent on hand.

If the team doesn't step up and play well, however, it could prove to be disastrous for Reese. The Super Bowl was won with a team put together largely by Ernie Accorsi and Reese has been a mixed bag -- strong drafts, awful free agent signings -- in the last three years as the man in charge.

He made a bold statement about a lot of players who helped the team win that Super Bowl in the last few weeks, one that could make him look very smart if things work out his way. If the Giants can't replace them and miss the playoffs once again, though, Reese might not get many more chances to grab the brass ring.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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