EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Coach Tom Coughlin said he was upset and surprised when Steve Smith left for Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Coughlin said the New York Giants were not given a chance to counter the Eagles' offer and were fully under the impression that Smith would give them the opportunity if things got close with another team.
"We were constantly told that if and when the market did develop that we would always be included in what was going on," Coughlin said. "I am upset. So is everybody. But we are disappointed in the fact that ... it's like lining up for the race and you are in the locker room and nobody tells you that the race is going to be run. That is the disappointing thing here. I don't believe that we were given the opportunity to do what we can do."
Smith responded to irate Giants fans on his Facebook page by reiterating that the Giants didn't want him as much as the Eagles did.
"Instead of cursing at me and wishing my family and my knee harm, i wish you could understand that i truly wanted to stay here but that the giants DIDN'T want me here unfortunately," he said. "Thank you to my true fans for standing by me and offering your support during this time ... i truly appreciate it and will miss you all, even the haters bc i know ure great people deep down and are saying what u are just because youre such passionate fans."
Ben Dogra, Smith's agent, told the Newark Star-Ledger that he did not tell the Giants that he would give them a chance to counter.
"I did not. I never told them at any point," Dogra told the paper. "And, in fact, I'll take it a step further. I told them, 'Hey, I just want to be candid with you, I have another team that's going to be in the mix on a one-year deal.' So I did tell them that."
"If you have a sense of urgency, sometimes when you have a free agent, you can negotiate against yourself, you negotiate and wait for us or you just negotiate to get a deal done," Dogra continued. "That's the prerogative of the club. We have no obligation to go back."
Dogra would not say how much the Giants offered his client.
"Ask them the question: Do they think their offer was too low?" Dogra said. "If they thought it was too high and he left, then it worked out for everybody because they wouldn't have paid more. If their offer was too low and they know it was low then shame on them."
Coughlin intimated that there wasn't much discussion between the Giants and Smith's camp after the initial offer was made by the team.
"That's not true. They did hear from me," Dogra said. "I told them I got (the offer) and I told them I had another team in the mix and we were going to explore all of our options. I never told them I was going to counter or not counter."
"He got a stronger commitment from Philadelphia on the short and possibly the long," Dogra added. "And that was it."
The Giants made an offer to Smith on the first day they were allowed to do so in free agency. However, Smith's camp clearly wasn't pleased with it. He visited with the Giants on Monday and spoke to Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese. The wide receiver also had his surgically repaired knee checked out by the team on Tuesday. Dr. Russell Warren performed the microfracture surgery on Smith last December.
Coughlin said the belief was that Smith would not be ready to return to practice for another four-to-six weeks. The Giants were concerned with Smith's knee, wondering when the former Pro Bowl receiver would be able to suit up for a game.
On Wednesday, prior to the Smith signing, Coughlin told reporters that he felt that Smith had a "ways to go" and that it would be a "long haul" in terms of his recovery. But Smith told reporters in a conference call on Wednesday night that he was given positive feedback from both the Giants and Eagles medical staffs and that he could be back sooner than Coughlin might've thought.
Sources with knowledge of Smith's medical review by the Giants and Eagles told ESPN NFL senior analyst Chris Mortensen that doctors realistically believe the wide receiver could return by mid-October if he suffers no setbacks in his rehabilitation.
Under that projected timeline, Smith likely would begin the season on the PUP (physically unable to play) list, meaning he would be required to miss the first six regular-season games. The Eagles have their bye in Week 7.
But a source tells ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that the Eagles expect Smith to contribute early on and not start the season on the PUP list.
Nonetheless, the Giants figured they had time to negotiate with Smith due to his injury.
"We thought he would be a Giant all the way with the circumstances and the fact that Dr. Warren did the surgery and did know quite a bit about what it takes to get him back on the field," Coughlin said.
Reese was not surprised by the situation.
"I am not blindsided or surprised by anything in free agency," Reese said when asked if he was stunned by Smith leaving. "I don't want to get into a 'he said, she said' situation but you do expect some feedback. Again, nobody owes you anything in free agency. I'm not surprised by anything."
Now the Giants have lost two of Eli Manning's favorite targets in Smith and tight end Kevin Boss. Smith reportedly signed a one-year deal worth $4 million ($2 million guaranteed) and Boss signed with Oakland for a four-year deal worth $16 million ($8 million guaranteed).
"Obviously Steve with his injury, we didn't know what the circumstances were," said Manning, who spoke on the phone with Smith earlier in the week. "We were hoping to get him back."
"With Steve, I don't know if he would have been able to play the first six games or what his circumstances were so there's a big question mark in that sense," the quarterback added. "All I can worry about is the players that have been practicing."
Defensive captain Justin Tuck expressed disappointment at losing Smith. But the defensive end reiterated that the Eagles will have to do plenty more than just add high-profile names to win a Super Bowl.
"Let me ask you a question: When (have) names won a game?" Tuck asked. "So far, Philly and everybody else that you all are giving the Super Bowl already just got names, they haven't played a game either. They still got to stay healthy and jell as a football team. So why aren't we in that same pot as far as having that chance?"
While the Eagles have been spending in a free-agent frenzy, the Giants have largely remained quiet. They re-signed defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, running back Ahmad Bradshaw and added center David Baas among other moves. But they've lost defensive tackle Barry Cofield, Boss and now Smith while also releasing veteran offensive linemen Shaun O'Hara and Rich Seubert.
If the Giants do not add any more free agents, they'll need some young players to step up. The team is hoping that someone will emerge out of a crop of receivers that includes Domenik Hixon, third-round pick Jerrel Jernigan, Victor Cruz, Devin Thomas, Darius Reynaud, Michael Clayton or Ramses Barden. Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham are the top two receivers on the team and will need a third body to help take some pressure off them.
"(Jerry Reese) has a plan to make this team competitive in this league and I trust he knows what he's doing," Tuck said.
When a reporter said the Giants have not gotten better due to loss of players, Tuck replied, "Really? Have we played a game yet? So how would you know that we're better or not? I guess we are all psychic now."
In the end, the Giants said they wanted Smith to clue them in on what was going on with Philadelphia but never got that from their former Pro Bowl wideout.
"We conservatively approached it in terms of thinking that there's certainly a market for a player of that value but that there were some issues that had to be dealt with as well," Coughlin said of Smith's knee. "Perhaps there was some more time to be spent in the process of getting ready to play. Our people had pursued an offer and tried to get this done a long time ago to be honest with you. But nothing ever came forth from their people."
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com.