Smith was a sixth-round pick out of Northern Illinois back in 2019. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers but didn’t make their 53-man roster and spent time on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ and Steelers’ practice squads that season. Later that year, he had a brief stint on the Seattle Seahawks practice squad and signed a reserve/future contract with them, but he was waived before the start of training camp in 2020.
This season, the former Huskie was with the New Orleans Saints during training camp before getting released at the end of August. After starting fullback Alec Ingold tore an ACL in Week 10, the Raiders signed Smith to the practice squad and quickly elevated him to the active roster for Week 11.
Against the Bengals, Smith didn’t take any offensive snaps but did participate in 12 special teams plays during his regular-season debut, and he registered six offensive snaps in addition to his special teams duties on Thanksgiving.
The length of Smith’s new contract is interesting, though. With Ingold out, the newcomer will be needed for the rest of this season, but Ingold should be fully healthy by the start of next season. However, the predecessor’s contract does expire at the end of the year so the Raiders might be looking for an insurance policy in more ways than one.
For one, even if they bring Ingold back, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be ready by Week 1, and two, the organization might be looking for a backup plan in case he does go elsewhere in the offseason. Now Las Vegas won’t be hung out to dry in either worst-case scenario.
Part of what has made the Wisconsin alum so valuable to the Silver and Black’s offense is his unique athleticism for the position. He’s been a factor in the passing game as well as the road-grading blocker that coaches covet at the position and that’s hard to replace. However, Smith is no slouch and has plenty of versatility and athletic ability of his own.
The Northern Illinois product actually played defensive end in college and had quite an impressive resume. He was a two-time first-team All-Conference selection, won the MAC Defensive Player of the Year award twice, was the conference’s MVP in 2018 and was a two-time first-team All-American in college. Smith left DeKalb with 38 career sacks, 58.5 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles to his name, and was added to the school’s and College Football Hall of Fame’s All-Decade teams.
Now it’s just a matter of if that athletic ability can transfer over to a new(ish) position on the other side of the ball.