Oakland Raiders Cannot Afford To Roll The Dice On Aldon Smith


If you’re Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie – not to mention HC Jack Del Rio and DC Ken Norton Jr. – it has to be tempting, oh so tempting, to lob a phone call to the recently unemployed Aldon Smith‘s agent. There are no doubt, some among the other thirty one teams in the league that already have.

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As tempting as it might be though, and as talented as Smith is, the Raiders simply cannot afford to roll the dice by pursuing him.

Friday morning, Smith was arrested – yet again – on alcohol related charges. According to the Santa Clara Police Department, Smith was booked on DUI, hit and run, and vandalism charges. According to police, Smith – while trying to park his car – damaged another car, damaged it further when he opened his door, left the scene without reporting the incident, and then returned to the scene displaying what police described as, “objective symptoms of being under the influence of an alcoholic beverage.” After a field sobriety test, Smith was arrested.

Though the matter is still under investigation and nothing is yet settled, the arrest was enough for the San Francisco 49ers to finally cut ties with Smith whom they’ve given multiple chances to after several arrests, suspensions, and a stint in an alcohol rehab facility.

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  • In announcing Smith’s release, the 49ers issued a statement that said, in part:

    "“This organization has tried very hard to help Aldon fight his issues. Although he is no longer a member of this team, our support and concern for him will continue.”"

    The moment he was released, there is no doubt that general managers around the league began to salivate. And why not? In four seasons in the league – and a total of just fifty games played – Smith has racked up an eye popping forty four sacks.

    Thirty-three and a half of those came in Smith’s first two seasons in the NFL, in which he played in every game. But in 2013, he missed five games while in rehab and recorded just eight and a half sacks. In 2014, Smith was suspended for the first nine games of the season and managed to record just a pair of sacks in his seven games.

    It really makes you wonder, if he’d been able to stay on the straight and narrow, what his numbers would look like.

    The Raiders meanwhile, coming off a season in which they had one of the league’s most anemic pass rushes – recording just twenty two sacks on the year – desperately need playmakers with the ability to get to the quarterback. Justin Tuck and second year standout Khalil Mack both return and will figure prominently into Oakland’s pass rushing attack. They also drafted Mario Edwards Jr. and Max Valles this year with the hope that more youthful energy off the edge will help inject some life into Oakland’s pass rush.

    But there is no question that entering the 2015 season, Oakland’s pass rush is still one of the team’s biggest question marks. And you better believe they could they use an elite pass rusher like Smith.

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    But over his four seasons in the league, Smith has shown a pattern of terrible decision making. He’s shown that he cannot be trusted to be there for his team and his teammates. Over the last two seasons, he has missed fourteen of a possible thirty two games simply because he could not control himself off the field.

    The Raiders are entering one of the most important years in franchise history. With foundation pieces in Mack, Derek Carr, and Amari Cooper, among others, Oakland has the chance to do something that has not been done in more than a decade – post a winning record.

    Armed with a new coaching staff and a roster that hasn’t seen this much talent in quite a long time, the Raiders have the chance to do something special this year. The last thing they need is a player like Smith coming in and disrupting the chemistry the team has been building through the offseason work and now training camp.

    Because Smith once again couldn’t handle himself off the field, he left his now-former 49ers teammates twisting in the wind, having to scramble to fill the void he left behind – and dealing a blow to a San Francisco defense already trying to cope with the losses of Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Chris Borland, and a number of free agent defections.

    As tempting as might be to want to see Smith in Silver and Black, do Raider fans really want to deal with the off the field issues that have plagued him and all of the frustrations that come with it? Do Raider fans really want to see Smith leaving Oakland hanging out to dry the same way he has with the 49ers?

    Though some out there would undoubtedly say yes, Smith simply comes with too much baggage at this point in his career. He’s only twenty five years old and still has time to turn his life – and his career – around.

    But at this point in time, the Raiders simply cannot afford to wait for him to mature. They cannot afford to roll the dice and hope that he’s learned his lesson this time.

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