Oakland Raiders: Romanowski Off The Mark In Comments About Sean Smith

PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 30: Former NFL player Bill Romanowski attend SiriusXM at Super Bowl XLIX Radio Row at the Phoenix Convention Center on January 30, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 30: Former NFL player Bill Romanowski attend SiriusXM at Super Bowl XLIX Radio Row at the Phoenix Convention Center on January 30, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM) /

Former Oakland Raiders linebacker Bill Romanowski added his voice to the growing chorus of those who believe cornerback Sean Smith won’t see the regular season in a Silver and Black jersey.

The Oakland Raiders made a big investment in cornerback Sean Smith last year – an investment that, thus far, hasn’t paid off. Though dealing with an injury for much of the year, the embattled cornerback had a nightmare season in 2016. And thus far in 2017, it hasn’t gotten a lot better for him.

Smith has struggled throughout camp, at times even running with the second team, and in the first preseason game with Arizona, he didn’t acquit himself particularly well – but then, the secondary as a whole, wasn’t exactly crisp and sharp.

However, Smith was brought in to be the playmaker he was in Kansas City and lock down one side of the field. So far, that hasn’t happened as he found himself torched by receivers more times than we can count last season, contributing to one of the worst secondaries in all of football.

While it’s unfair and inaccurate to pin all of Oakland’s trouble defending the pass on Smith – there were failures on all levels of the unit – he certainly did have his share of struggles.

And those struggles have led to many calling for him to be cut ahead of the season. In a year when expectations for this Raiders squad are through the roof, every phase of this team needs to be on point. Especially on the defensive side of the ball.

And Smith’s critics – despite the fact that he had to learn a new system, and plyed with an injury for most of the season – have totally and completely lost faith that he can be as effective in the defensive backfield as the team needs.

It seems ridiculous, but there are some who believe Smith – who’s been a top-flight corner his entire career – isn’t long for this Silver and Black world. One voice in that growing chorus is former Raiders linebacker Bill Romanowski, who doesn’t believe Smith will survive the looming cuts.

In an interview with 95.7, the Game, Romanowski had this to say:

"“I wonder if Sean [Smith] can make this team. This game is about speed and here’s the deal. With his salary, he’s not going to be a backup. It ain’t going to happen.”"

Here’s the thing though, Smith’s game has never been predicated on speed. Never. He’s not a burner, never has been. Smith’s game has always revolved around his size, length, postioning, and physicality.

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He’s never been the kind of corner who can run in stride with Brandin Cooks – he’s always been the kind of guy who can knock him off his route before he gets up to speed.

And yet, for whatever reason, he was unable to do so last season.

In one regard though, Romanowski is probably correct – Smith isn’t going to be a backup. Given his experience, he’s very likely going to start the season on the outside, opposite David Amerson.

And given the paycheck he’s cashing, the Raiders are going to give him every opportunity to succeed.

If Smith struggles through the first few weeks of the season, his role on the defense may need to be redefined. And likely will be.

But financially, it makes absolutely no sense for the Raiders to cut ties with Smith now – they’re already on the hook for $9 million this season. If he proves unable to be effective on the outside, they’ll find some way to squeeze a little value out of him this year – even if his role is limited strictly to tight end hunter/killer.

The other reason Smith will not only make the 53-man roster, but begin the season on the outside, is that the Raiders don’t have many other options.

With first-round draft pick Gareon Conley missing camp because of shin splints – or whatever it really was – and not being anywhere near ready to play, that essentially leaves Travis Carrie as the sole choice to replace Smith on the outside.

And Carrie, though he’s made some plays, hasn’t proven to be a consistent performer. If you had to pick between Smith and Carrie to start on the outside, Smith is still going to be the better option.

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Given his track record as one of the better corners in the league, the Raiders will very likely give him every opportunity to get right and be a productive member of the defense. Though many doubt it’s possible, Smith very well can have a rebound year and be an asset to this defense, rather than a liability.

It’s highly doubtful though, that – as Romanowski suggests and others clamor for – Smith gets cut and doesn’t make the 53-man roster. They simply have too much invested in him at this point.