One of the Eagles’ biggest offseason signings occurred before 2017 NFL free agency officially even started. Philadelphia signed Torrey Smith last week shortly before the new league year began. He was available on the market since the 49ers cut him.
After excelling in Baltimore with the Ravens, Smith’s career went downhill the past two seasons in San Francisco. In order to figure out what went wrong and get more insight on the Eagles’ new wide receiver, here’s a question and answer exchange with the people who know Torrey best. Here we’ll go over both a 49ers and Ravens perspective of Smith.
49ERS TORREY SMITH
Answers via David Fucillo of Niners Nation.
1 - What was the reaction when Smith first signed with the 49ers?
“People were excited about adding a deep threat. Anquan Boldin was on the team, but the departure of Michael Crabtree in free agency left the team with questions at the position. The 49ers had not had a legitimate deep threat in a long time. Randy Moss was one such option in 2012, but he was on the tail end of his career. Smith was right in the prime of his, and it was the most notable signing in some time from a dollars perspective.”
2 - What went wrong? How much of Smith’s lack of production in San Francisco his fault? To what extent did bad QB play and a bad roster impact him?
“The 49ers were a dumpster fire the past couple years. The quarterback play was inconsistent at best, and when you've got Blaine Gabbert starting games for you, something has gone wrong. He got open, but the 49ers quarterbacks just were not using him like they should have. I don't think he is a pure No. 1 receiver, but he should have been a lot more effective than what we saw the last two years.”
3 - What are his strengths?
“He's a burner who will take the top off. His ability to get deep also helps him draw a solid amount of holding and pass interference penalties.”
4 - What are his weaknesses?
“He's got questionable hands. With the 49ers, if he was not burning a receiver on a deep route, he was not all that valuable to the team. As detailed above, some of that goes on the offensive game-planning and QB play, but he's also not a pure No. 1 receiver that will regularly take over games. He needs depth around him.”
5 - What exactly do you think he has left in the tank? Above average starting wide receiver? Quality role player? Something else?
“There's no reason to think he doesn't have anything left in the tank in the right role. He's a deep threat who should help open up the shorter passing game for the rest of the receivers. And knowing he is not viewed as the primary weapon should help as well. He's only had a single 1,000-yard season in his six-year career, so don't be expecting huge numbers. But he'll be among the league leaders in yards per catch.”
6 - To the best of your knowledge, what’s Smith like off the field? Seems like 49ers fans are wishing him well in Philadelphia.
“We can never know a player fully, but by all accounts, he is as good a guy off the field as you will find in the NFL. He was the 49ers Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee this past year for all the charitable work he does around the country, and particularly in the Maryland/Northern Virginia area. He has an active social media presence, in part to promote his charitable work, but also to discuss complicated issues. He's outspoken in his beliefs, which makes for some interesting Twitter discussions. And his son T.J. is hysterical when Torrey posts videos on social media.”
RAVENS TORREY SMITH
Answers via Vasilis Lericos of Baltimore Beatdown.
1 - There was some talk about the Ravens bringing Smith back to Baltimore. How did fans feel when he signed with the Eagles instead?
“There was a fleeting moment of excitement across Ravens Nation regarding the prospects of Smith returning to Baltimore once it became apparent that the Ravens would not land veteran possession receivers Brandon Marshall or Pierre Garcon. But overall, fans were mostly indifferent on Torrey after the Ravens picked up the option on Mike Wallace's contract, because fielding three burners - Wallace, Smith and Breshad Perriman- would have been redundant.”
2 - Were Ravens fans disappointed to lose Smith to the 49ers in free agency a few years ago?
“Smith was a polarizing player in the 2014 offseason. Despite being the best wide receiver ever drafted in Ravens franchise history, his tenure in Baltimore ended on a sour note because some believed he did not fight hard enough for a jump ball in the end zone during the final moments of a hard fought playoff loss in New England. Most fans wanted to retain Torrey on a fair market deal, but understood the Ravens could not match San Francisco's generous contract offer with the salary cap space at their disposal.”
3 - What were his strengths with Baltimore?
“During his time in Baltimore, Smith was the very best in the league at drawing pass interference penalties, and by a wide margin. His long speed brought a big play dimension that paired perfectly with Joe Flacco's strong arm. Torrey was also at his best in clutch situations, saving many of his best plays for games against the arch rival Steelers, Patriots and Broncos in crunch time and the postseason.”
4 - What were his weaknesses with Baltimore?
“Torrey's hands can be inconsistent at times. He also struggles to create separation on short and intermediate routes. Physical corners can make his disappear from time to time. And his ability to maximize yards after the catch is not what you would expect considering his speed.”
5 - To the best of your knowledge, what’s Smith like off the field?
“By all accounts, Smith is an model teammates and professional on and off the field. He was very involved in helping the community in Baltimore and never clashed with coaches. Torrey was well liked by his teammates, demonstrated by their rallying around him after his brother tragically passed away in 2012. He is a high character family man, you shouldn't have to worry about Torrey embarrassing the Eagles off the field.”
For more on Smith, check out BGN’s film breakdown on him. Here’s a highlights video.
And last, but certainly not least, a Torrey Smith spider graph!