Seattle has decided to take a big ol’ swing at improving their pass-rush.
The Seattle Seahawks have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with defensive end and pass-rush specialist Aldon Smith, sources told ESPN on Thursday.
Smith had made his triumphant return to the NFL after off-field issues—many of which were related to alcohol abuse or driving under the influence—led the league to suspending him indefinitely. The ban ended up lasting four seasons before he was allowed back into the NFL as a member of the Dallas Cowboys in 2020.
The 31-year-old had signed with the Cowboys on a $4 million deal heavily based on incentives. After a disappointing season, Smith was informed by the team on March 24th that Dallas would not be offering him another contract, sources told ESPN.
He had started off his comeback campaign well, taking down Russell Wilson thrice in a Week 3 matchup. However, he managed only two more sacks over the rest of the season despite playing in every game for the first time since 2012. He was also out there for 808 snaps, most among Cowboys defensive linemen and fourth on the team’s defense overall.
Such a long layoff followed by such a heavy workload could explain why his play faded down the stretch of the season. Last year, he was second only to DeMarcus Lawrence with 33 QB pressures, also adding 48 tackles, five tackles for loss, and a pair of fumble recoveries, one of which he took back to paydirt from 78 yards out.
The Seahawks are hoping Smith can return to at least some level of his early career brilliance after struggling to get a consistent pass rush going from the front four last season, with safety Jamal Adams leading the team in sacks with 9.5.
Smith has a sky-high ceiling, but this signing is not one that moves the needle for the Seahawks, who remain third on 888sport’s NFC West winner odds table, at +250 NFL odds, sitting behind the Los Angeles Rams (+175) and the San Francisco 49ers (+187). Their +2,000 odds to win the Super Bowl are not even worth a sniff right now.
As far as bursts onto the scene go, Smith’s was about as explosive as they come. He didn’t start a game his rookie year in 2011 but finished with 14 sacks and grabbed a spot on the All-Rookie team. He followed that up with a 19.5-sack season in his sophomore year which saw him earn First-Team All-Pro honors and be named a top 10 player by his peers.
That’s about when the trouble started for Smith. In January of 2012 and September of 2013 he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, after the second of which he checked into rehab, forcing him to miss five games during the 2013 season. He would still finish with 8.5 sacks in 11 games. He had 42 sacks in his first 43 games.
In April of 2014, Smith was arrested on suspicion of making a false bomb threat at an airport, though charges were not filed. In August of that year, the NFL suspended Smith for nine games for what they saw as violations of the league’s personal conduct and substance abuse policies.
In August of 2015, on the first day off of 49ers training camp, Smith was arrested for hit-and-run, DUI, and vandalism, which led to his release by San Francisco a day later. He then signed with the Oakland Raiders a month later, for whom he had 3.5 sacks in the last six of his nine appearances for the team.
In November of 2015, the NFL finally came down with its ruling on Smith with regards to the August incident, suspending him for what was supposed to be a year but turned into an ‘indefinite’ suspension after the first 12 months.
Following a strange domestic violence situation in March of 2018 during which Smith reportedly bit a woman’s wrists and chugged two bottles of tequila before feeling the scene, the Raiders released Smith. He would plead no contest to the charges later on in the year and was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years probation. He served his time at an inpatient alcohol and drug treatment center, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Former Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio had been very vocal through the whole Smith saga, pointing out that the league’s rules did not allow the team to be in contact with players who are serving suspensions, which not only isolates them but also removes the tools and structure that a team offers which can help immensely for people suffering from substance abuse or alcoholism.
Despite no legal issues after that, reinstatement was not granted to Smith by the NFL for the 2019 season and would not come until after he signed his contract with the Cowboys last April. A one-year ban had become a four-year ban.
Smith is the fastest man to 30 sacks in NFL history (27 games) and also holds the record for most sacks in a player’s first two seasons (33.5). He also holds 49ers franchise records for single-season sacks by a rookie (14) and single-season sacks overall (19.5).
After such a sad and turbulent past several years, it would be quite the feel-good story to see Smith re emerge as a pass-rushing menace on the field in 2021 for Seattle.