Editor's note: Matt Maiocco is in Florida for the NFL owners meetings. Watch SportsNet Central tonight at 6 & 10:30pm for comprehensive coverage.
BOCA RATON, Fla. – The Raiders already had one of the rising pass-rushing stars in the league. And they made a free agent investment to apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks from the other side.
As highly as Raiders coach Jack Del Rio might think of Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, he does not believe the pass rush is set.
“I think you need three,” Del Rio said Tuesday morning at the NFL owners meetings.
And that’s where Aldon Smith could come in.
If Smith fulfills the requirements set forth during his one-year suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on substances of abuse, he would be eligible to return to the league in mid-November.
When asked if he’s allowed himself to think of the possibility that Smith could join forces with Mack and Irvin, Del Rio answered, “Oh, yeah, of course.”
Del Rio echoed what general manager Reggie McKenzie told CSNBayArea.com on Tuesday. Smith, 26, remains in the Raiders’ long-term plan.
“We’ve talked about it and thought about it and we’ll continue – I know Reggie said yesterday – we’ll continue to have conversations,” Del Rio said. “He’s got work to do on his personal life. And it might make sense at some point, as long as he’s taking care of the things he needs to take care of, that he can return.”
As outlined in the league policy, Smith is allowed to see his treating clinician on the team’s property, but “must vacate the premises immediately following termination of the treatment session.” The club’s director of player engagement may have bi-weekly phone calls, but Del Rio is not allowed to have any contact with Smith, who is an unrestricted free agent.
“It’s unfortunate that is the case because I think in a lot of cases, a lot of times, these young men could use some of that mentoring role from coaches,” Del Rio said. “It’s not always about football. Sometimes we’re just helping men be good men. I think having that support system could be beneficial. I’m not the doctor here. I don’t make the rules.”
Del Rio said any conversations about re-signing Smith would have to be negotiated solely with the agent during the suspension. As McKenzie said Monday, the Raiders are in no hurry, as they want to make sure Smith makes progress off the field with regular league-mandated testing and treatment.
“He’s in the program,” Del Rio said. “He has certain things that have to be fulfilled. It’s really in the hands of the league and the doctors and the people that can do their thing with him. It’s really up to him. I just think a lot of times in these situations, these young men are on their own, and I’m not sure that’s the best for them as people.”
Smith participated in nine games and recorded 3.5 sacks with the Raiders, who signed him to a one-year contract a month after the 49ers released him following his fifth run-in with the law since the offseason after his rookie year, including his third alleged DUI.
During his time with the Raiders, Smith gave Del Rio and the Raiders organization reason to believe there is mutual benefit from the union continuing.
“I think in his heart, he’s a good young man,” Del Rio said. “I feel, like all of us, we can all work to be better. But in my time around him, I enjoyed being around him. Good teammate. Good to be around.
“He’s a good kid.”