For four seasons the Raiders had a brute gooning for them on the edges of the offensive line. They also had a team-first, leave-it-all-on-the field guy. But going into year five, they decided they could do without that, so they cut Lee Smith in favor of rookie fourth round pick Foster Moreau.
Even at 31 years old, several other teams jumped at the chance to add the 6-6, 265-pounder to their squad. Smith chose to go back to where his career began, signing a three-year deal with the Buffalo Bills. But he didn’t take a discount to do so. He didn’t have to because he had several suitors.
#Bills TE Lee Smith's 3-year deal is worth $9m with $4.9m fully gtd--2-year structure (year 1: $1.9m base, $1.5m 5/15 RB; year 2: $1m of base, $500k RB). They had a lot of competition for him, which might help to explain the strong guarantees.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) May 23, 2019
Caplan went on to say there were at least six teams competing for Smith’s services.
It may sound like hyperbole to describe Smith as I did. It really isn’t though. He makes a living as a goon who pushes around his defender and plays through the whistle. And as big as tight ends normally are, Smith is bigger. He is an imposing figure on the field. He makes the other also large tight ends look small standing next to him.
The team-first part comes from his willingness to restructure his contract prior to the 2017 season to make most of his contract non-guaranteed with the only way he earns his money is through play time incentives. He would ultimately earn his pay, and was even signed to his $1.1 million 2019 roster bonus at the end of last season.
He was also the only player to come out publicly and angrily defend Derek Carr from the allegations of a fractured relationship between Derek Carr and his offensive line. Smith defended the Raiders’ locker room dynamic, calling it a “brotherhood” and the reports “horse shit.”
Whether he’s correct about that or whether you believe him or not, he was right to step up and say something. It was the right thing to say at the right time.
It’s not surprise there were quite a few teams who want that presence on the field and in their locker room. More surprising is the Raiders did not.