Raiders’ move makes room on defensive line

One 33-year-old defensive lineman’s career might have ended Tuesday morning.

The Oakland Raiders officially released Antonio Smith, who was set to count $4 million against the cap. The late timing of the move raises eyebrows, with most veterans like Smith being cut early in free agency as a courtesy.

Smith has proven to be fairly timeless in his play, being one of the most productive defensive tackles in the game when it comes to rushing the quarterback. Smith, for all his efforts as a mauler, was not so efficient at bringing down runners.

The odd timing begs one big question: Does this mean the Raiders are in play for New Orleans’ pass rusher Cameron Jordan?

Jordan was reportedly made available by the Saints this week and is scheduled to make just under $7 million this year. The release of Smith adds enough cap room for the team to make the move and still sign other players.

New Orleans has also made guard Jahri Evans available, though the 31-year-old veteran is scheduled to make $11 million this year, far more than about any team wants to take on.

It’s possible the Raiders would be willing to package their first overall pick, along with a late-rounder, for New Orleans’ first round pick and Jordan.

A move like that would help create a serious pass rush in Oakland, with Khalil Mack on one side and Jordan pushing the other.

Creating more pressure on the quarterback has been a big priority in Oakland this offseason, though no available impact players have availed themselves to the team.

The team signed defensive tackle Dan Williams on the second day of free agency, who will likely tandem with second year defensive lineman Justin Ellis.

The two provide a serious clot in the ‘”A gaps,” the area to either side of the center, and are also very good in clogging the “B gaps,” which are between guard and tackle.

Should Oakland bring in Jordan, the team would look very good up front. And would possibly be a defensive force. Jordan has recorded 20 sacks over the last two seasons.

Of course, this is simply speculative to this point, and the release of Smith may have been more of a mutual parting.

Smith has reportedly fielded interest from other teams, notably the Texans, who he spent five of his 10 seasons with.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.