The Raiders have released veteran defensive tackle Antonio Smith, the team announced on Tuesday afternoon.
The transaction counts somewhat as a surprise, considering Smith’s status as a locker room leader and his production as an interior pass rusher.
The Raiders chose to cut the 33-year-old ironman, who had 20 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble in 16 games played. Smith has missed just one game since the 2005 season, and seemed to be a part of the team’s plans next season.
The Raiders save $4 million against the salary cap without any dead money associated with the transaction. Smith was set to enter the latter half of a two-year $9 million contract with $4 million in guaranteed money paid last season.
The Raiders added free agent Dan Williams to the interior defensive line, already manned by second-year pro Justin Ellis. Both players are known as run stuffers on the inside.
It seemed that Smith would have complimented Ellis and Williams well at the three technique.
C.J. Wilson was re-signed last week, and he has some pass-rush ability. While he played end last year, he’s expected to play tackle under new head coach Jack Del Rio and defensive coordinator Ken Norton.
The Raiders should add at least one more primary player to that group, likely through the NFL draft. The team is known to covet USC’s Leonard Williams, though it seems unlikely the versatile talent would be available when the Raiders select at No. 4 overall.
Smith (aka the Ninja Assassin) was well liked in Oakland, and earned an award for his dealing’s with the press. He kept the working environment light during a treacherous 0-10 start with a strong sense of humor and steady play on the interior line.