Aldon Smith is getting another chance to play in the NFL.
Just up the Interstate 880, in fact. The former 49ers linebacker signed a one-year deal with the Raiders, an NFL source confirmed to CSNBayArea.com.
“Aldon is an extremely talented young player,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said in a statement. “We welcome him to the Raiders family and expect him to bring his best every day and be a great teammate.”
“We are confident that the Raiders provide an environment where Aldon can thrive through the support, structure and leadership within the building,” Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie said. “We are excited to have Aldon here in the Raiders family.”
While it make take some time to adjust, the top-flight pass rusher could make his Raiders' debut as early as Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. He is eligible to play immediately despite a recent run-in with the law. While he doesn't know the defensive scheme or its terminology, he could conceivably fill a role on passing downs simply rushing the quarterback. ESPN reports the Raiders are considering that option, and will make a decision based on his conditioning.
The 49ers released Smith back on Aug. 7 after he was arrested on Aug. 6 for alleged hit and run, DUI and vandalism. Shortly after Smith signed with the Raiders, the Santa Clara District Attorney levied misdemeanor charges on him for all three offenses.
The Raiders haven't welcomed character risks under general manager Reggie McKenzie, and consequently haven't had a player involved in off-field controversy in some time. The Smith signing represents a calculated risk on McKenzie's part. He is certainly betting that Smith will pay dividends on the field this season without blowback from his off-field troubles.
While the NFL could suspend him in time -- Smith was suspended nine games in 2014 for violating the league's personal conduct policy and substance abuse policy -- the league generally doesn't act against players like this until unflattering matters have been adjudicated. The matter is currently under league review, and while nothing is certain regarding punitive action, it's possible nothing happens to Smith until next year. Smith's latest arraignment is set for Oct. 6.
According to NFL Network contract is worth up to $8 million, reportedly with $5 million in per-game roster bonuses and another $2 million in sack-based incentives. That structure makes Smith a relatively low-risk proposition since the Raiders are largely paying him for play and performance.
Smith didn't initially believe his latest incident will haunt him as others have. As he walked out of the courthouse on the morning of Aug. 7, Smith delivered a message to reporters.
“The people who are faithful will remain faithful," Smith said. "Simple as it is. Justice will be served. The truth will come out. It’s no DUI. And I’m sorry for anybody I let down ... I need to speak. And I want everybody to understand, this wasn’t a DUI. The situation that happened could’ve been handled differently. And I apologize to everybody I did let down and I apologize for how it all played out.
"But as far as everything is concerned, it’ll work out how it’s supposed to work out.”
The move could work out well on the field for the Raiders, who can pair him with potential breakout star Khalil Mack and veteran Justin Tuck along the defensive front. That trio could prove formidable on an attacking defense now led by head coach Jack Del Rio and coordinator Ken Norton Jr.
Smith was a First-Team All-Pro in 2012 and has compiled 44 sacks over 50 regular season games.
To make room on the roster, the Raiders waived DE Lavar Edwards.
Jason Cole of Bleacher Report was the first to report the deal. NFL Network reported that Smith chose the Raiders over offers from the Jaguars, Buccaneers and Rams, and took less money to stay close to his support system in the Bay Area.