Raiders sign Aldon Smith

Aldon Smith is heading across the Bay to the Silver and Black.

The troubled linebacker was released by the 49ers after his third DUI arrest, one of which was later reduced to reckless driving, and could face over 120 days in jail, and is almost certain to be suspended by the NFL at some point.

Smith can appeal any suspension, and play while the process goes on. The Raiders have looked decent at worst in the pass rushing department during training camp this year, and Smith only adds to that.

The NFL has waited for adjudication from the courts before imposing discipline for player misconduct that involves law enforcement, and it’s not out of the question that all punishments are held until 2016.

Behind former 49ers defensive end Justin Smith, who ate blockers like they were hot dogs at Coney Island, the linebacker recorded 33-1/2 sacks in his first two seasons and forced five fumbles with five passes defensed.

His production has tapered over the last two seasons, 10-1/2 sacks in 14 starts, no doubt at least partially due to missing time with suspensions and legal issues.

The Raiders have taken a pass on free agent players with purported character flaws, and recently parted ways with promising youngsters Jonathan Dowling and Sio Moore, citing the lack of a team fit.

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said:

“We’re very thorough in what we do and how we do it, so we feel very confident about the addition and about our football team going forward.”

Oakland is trying to catch up with Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning, and doesn’t have much cornerback depth to do it with.

So they are adding pass rushers.

According to Del Rio, the Raiders haven’t determined whether Smith will be active on gameday, though Oakland’s head coach plays coy quite often.

Said Del Rio:

“I’m just concerned about us showing up and ready to give our best. We’ve got 46 guys that will be active on game day. We want to bring our best. We want to make this community proud of the effort we put forth.”

Raiders veterans had a part in bringing Smith to Oakland, particularly defensive end Justin Tuck, who has been the team’s primary player recruiter since arriving in 2014.

Smith’s agent Doug Hendrickson tweeted his thanks to Tuck, another all-pro pass rusher on Oakland’s faculty. Tuck had some simple thoughts on the matter:

“I think Aldon will get in there and fit right in.”

According to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report, Smith’s deal is worth up to $8 million, he can earn it all if he meets criteria for incentives.

One of those incentives is likely a per game bonus, common for players with checkered histories, and it’s possible that Smith is active for all 16 regular season games.

Pass rush was the first thing safety Charles Woodson thought about when he heard the news, and that benefits Woodson and the rest of Oakland’s secondary.

Woodson gave a simple statement on the expectations for Smith:

“Aldon’s a grown man, and whatever he has to deal with, I’m sure he’ll deal with it accordingly. I’m not a baby sitter and I don’t think anybody expects anybody on this team to be his baby sitter. The only thing we expect is that he comes in and works hard, contributes and helps make this team great. That’s what we expect, that’s what we want, and I’m sure he probably wants the same thing.”

Smith joins a defensive front with names such as Khalil Mack, Justin Tuck and Dan Williams, a tremendous group of first round draft selections.

Said Mack:

“He’s an athlete. He’s one of the top athletes in this league.”

This story has been updated with quotes from players and head coach Jack Del Rio.


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.