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Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Updated: August 12, 12:13 PM ET
Smith leaves Giants in third-and-long

By Ohm Youngmisuk
ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' offseason appears to be going about as smoothly as the ride George Clooney had on his boat in "The Perfect Storm."

The Giants have been navigating through Hurricane Osi for quite some time now. They released longtime veterans Shaun O'Hara and Rich Seubert. They met with Plaxico Burress only to see him join forces with the Jets. They lost Kevin Boss to the Raiders and first-round pick Prince Amukamara is out with a broken foot.

Now, the latest tidal wave to hit the Giants is the loss of former Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Yes, those same Eagles who have beaten the Giants six straight times. The same Eagles who are now referred to as "The Dream Team" after adding the likes of Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and now the Giants' former go-to slot receiver.

Smith signed a one-year deal reportedly worth $4 million, with $2 million guaranteed according to The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger.

"This was obviously not an easy decision for me or something I ever expected," Smith wrote on his Facebook page. "But unfortunately the business aspect proved that the Eagles wanted me to be part of their organization MUCH more than the Giants did."

Smith said in a conference call the Eagles were in the mix for weeks and that he kept waiting to see what the Giants would do.

Smith was a die-hard Giant. One who tweeted a photo illustration of an empty trophy case with an Eagles logo next to a picture of him celebrating the Giants' Super Bowl victory against the New England Patriots.

Smith said he felt no disrespect from the Giants but made it clear he believed the Giants' decision to not re-sign him had more to do with money than his surgically repaired knee.

The Giants made an offer to Smith on the first day the team could talk to free agents. But discussions between the two teams never progressed. And last year, weeks before Smith suffered his knee injury, the Giants also made a sizable extension offer to Smith with guaranteed money, but the receiver wanted to test free agency.

Still, just about everyone figured Smith and the Giants were a lock to be together this season, thinking that his injury would scare teams away.

Steve Smith
When receiver Steve Smith was injured last season, it impacted the Giants' passing game.

Hours before Smith crossed borders in a heated rivalry, Tom Coughlin said he felt it would be a "long haul" in terms of Smith returning to the field, and that the injured wide receiver had a ways to go in his recovery.

The Giants were concerned about Smith's knee, which underwent delicate microfracture surgery last December, and were not sure when he would be able to return this season.

But Smith countered by saying that the team doctors for both the Giants and Eagles gave him positive reviews.

Boss got away for a four-year deal worth $16 million. Now another Eli Manning favorite leaves for much less.

To be fair, there's simply no guarantee that Smith will return to his Pro Bowl form of 2009 -- when he had 107 receptions for 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns -- this year. It took safety Kenny Phillips all of last year to recover from microfracture surgery.

Perhaps Smith would've started the season on the physically unable to perform list and not been able to contribute until midway through the season.

The Giants will have to find that out the hard way. The Eagles were already making moves to increase the gap between the two teams with the Asomugha signing being the biggest one. Now Manning's most trusted receiver will be running those inside routes for Michael Vick, who already has DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.

And on the other end, Manning has to develop a comfort level with a new slot receiver.

"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," Manning told ESPN NFC East blogger Dan Graziano on Wednesday prior to the Smith news. "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," Manning added. "So that'll probably create some more opportunities for us to move guys around and get some mismatches."

Last year, Smith didn't play against the Eagles due to various injuries. But in 2009, he had eight receptions for 68 yards and seven receptions for 74 yards in two meetings against Philly.

Surely Andy Reid remembered that.

"I don't know," Smith said when asked why Coughlin is under the impression that his recovery will take some time. "Maybe Coughlin had some kind of plan or something up his sleeve when he said that. I got checked out by both team doctors and positive reports. We will see what happens when I get on the field."

Counting Burress, who may or may not have been sincerely interested in a reunion, the Giants have lost two receivers from their Super Bowl XLII team to rivals.

The Giants will move on with Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham as their top two receivers. After that, they'll need someone to step up from a crop of wideouts that includes Domenik Hixon, rookie Jerrel Jernigan, Victor Cruz, Devin Thomas, Darius Reynaud, Michael Clayton and the injured Ramses Barden.

The Giants still could sign another receiver, but they've been operating through this free agency as if they're committed to finding out whether several of their young players are ready to step up.

From Will Beatty at left tackle to David Baas at center to Linval Joseph at defensive tackle, the Giants have some big holes to fill.

Now someone has to run those third-and-8 routes the way Smith did so perfectly.

It's still a month away until the season opener, but it feels like the Giants are already facing third-and-long.