Former All Pro pass rusher and troubled young man, Aldon Smith, has been a model citizen for the Raiders since crossing the bay to sign with the team a month after being released by the 49ers. Smith joined the Silver & Black two days before the season opener and quickly raved about the support structure he found in Oakland.
Reggie McKenzie is known for holding character above all else, which made the signing a bit of a surprise. But he is also known for using his ‘gut' when making such decisions and taking a chance on players other teams might not. Aldon Smith was one of those players. Although I'm sure his being a young stud pass rusher probably helped him as well.
"Going in, we did a lot of research on that, at the end of the day, when we said we were going to go ahead and go after him, we just wanted to let him join the family and help him every kind of way we can," Reggie McKenzie said in a meeting with local media Tuesday. "That's what we're doing. It's definitely a growth process when you don't go to training camp. He spent some time getting his legs back but he's definitely a good player for us now. It may not add up in the stat sheet from sacks. The numbers are going to come, the splash plays are going to come. We're good with Aldon."
He has absolutely been getting his legs under him. After a slow start which had the Raiders as one of just two teams in the NFL without a sack after two weeks, the Raiders exploded for five sacks in their win in Cleveland in week three and haven't looked back.
They owe that to Smith.
He didn't do it alone, of course, but no one really does it alone. It has been his pass rushing threat that has opened things up for others along the line and in the linebacking corps to get pressure as well.
Having Smith and second-year pass rusher, Khalil Mack as two young studs on the defense could make the Raiders a force for years to come in much the same way the Chiefs had been with the likes of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.
McKenzie went on to say Smith, who is on a one-year deal, is in the team's long term plans. And the Raiders have set themselves up to the team with which Smith would choose to sign long term, by showing him the kind of support he needs as well as being a team that will once again be flush with cash to spend under the salary cap next year.
No team was looking to sign Smith long term this offseason due to his long list of run-ins with the law; mostly having to do with alcohol. The incident that ultimately caused his release from the 49ers is still yet to be fully resolved, both in the courts and from the league perspective.
Both the Raiders and Smith hope that situation can be resolved by the start of free agency next March, so they can have a clear picture as to how or if they would like to discuss a long term contract.