Why new Eagles receiver Torrey Smith is probably going to disappoint

Philly’s new receiver was good in Baltimore, but terrible last year with Chip Kelly in SF.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles have started to address their problems at wide receiver, signing former Ravens and 49ers wideout Torrey Smith to a three-year deal, the team announced Thursday.

Reports from both ESPN’s Adam Schefter and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport indicated the deal was for $15 million. It’s a start, but given all the other options at receiver in free agency, the potential trade possibilities and receiver depth in the draft, it’s hard to believe bringing in Smith will have much of an impact, or get Eagles fans too excited for the second season of the Doug Pederson era.

This, however, might: The Eagles also signed free agent wide receiver Alshon Jeffery Thursday afternoon, the top free agent on the NFL’s list of available players this offseason. Also, the details of the Smith deal are very team friendly.

Smith does have something the Eagles sorely lack at wide receiver: Speed. Jordan Matthews is a bigger, possession-style receiver with the occasional ill-timed drop. Dorial Green-Beckham, who the Eagles traded for last season, is a big, possession-style receiver with the occasional ill-timed drop.

Nelson Agholor, the mercurial former first-round draft pick, is a possession-style receiver with the more-than-occasional ill-timed drop. Once the Eagles cut Josh Huff last season, the team didn’t have anyone on the roster to stretch the field. Bryce Treggs was signed from the practice squad with speed to burn, but did little if anything to help Carson Wentz.

Smith could be that guy. Only, he probably won’t be.

Smith spent four seasons in Baltimore after getting drafted in the second round out of Maryland in 2011. A burner on the field, he caught 50 balls on 95 targets as a rookie for the Ravens, then caught 49 on 110 targets his second year. In 2013, Smith was Joe Flacco’s primary receiving option, but only caught 65 balls on 137 targets. He did average 17.4 yards per reception, and racked up 1,128 yards that season, but in 2014, his production regressed, catching again just 49 balls while having a career low in yards.

His two years in San Francisco were awful. He played in 16 games, starting 12, in 2015 and caught just 33 balls on 62 targets. Last season, his only year under former Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, Smith played in 12 games and caught just 20 passes on 49 targets for 267 yards and three scores. His catch percentage was 40.8 percent, the lowest of his career.

Sadly, Smith is probably an upgrade over DGB and Agholor, which says more about the 2016 crop of receivers the Eagles had than their new signing. The Eagles had 3,798 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns in Wentz’s first season, but just 1,839 yards and seven scores went to wide receivers. That’s bad. And yet, it’s hard to see how Smith would have been enough of an upgrade last season to warrant signing.

The 49ers had the worst passing offense in football (yet did have five more receiving touchdowns than the Eagles) and Smith was the third receiver option — fifth option overall after two tight ends — behind Jeremy Kerley and Quinton Patton. If you’ve never heard of either of them it’s because nobody has. Kerley had one good year with the Jets half a decade ago and Patton has been with the 49ers for four seasons and has one career touchdown. And they were both better than Smith last year.

The Eagles better hope Smith gets back on track next year. And maybe they all know something the 49ers didn’t about Smith. His years in Baltimore were productive, and the Eagles VP of Player Personnel Joe Douglas was with the Ravens front office when Smith was drafted.

It was thought the Eagles were going to sign former Rams wideout Kenny Britt, but he signed with the Browns for four years and $32.5 million. For that price tag, it’s hard to believe the Eagles could afford him, or be willing to give that much to another tall possession-based receiver. At least with Smith, Wentz has a guy who can run, opening up space on the field for the tight ends, backs and the rest of the receivers, whoever they’ll end up being this season. Because they aren’t done upgrading the position. Not with just Smith.

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