This is scary in two different ways.
First, the Oakland Raiders signing pass-rusher Aldon Smith is scary for the obvious fact that the 25-year-old has been arrested five times since 2012 and is currently facing unresolved DUI, hit-and-run and vandalism charges.
But it's also scary because Smith, who according to Bleacher Report's Jason Cole signed a one-year contract with Oakland on Friday, is a 25-year-old with as much pass-rushing talent as any edge-rusher in football.
That explains why, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, Smith was in high demand despite his track record off the field, choosing to sign with the Raiders over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and St. Louis Rams.
|Aldon Smith's recent legal troubles|
|Aug. 6, 2015||Charged with hit-and-run, DUI and vandalism||TBD|
|Apr. 13, 2014||Arrested: suspicion of making false bomb threat||No charges|
|Oct. 29, 2013||Charged: 3 counts of possessing illegal weapons||Pled no contest|
|Sept. 20, 2013||Arrested on suspicion of DUI||Pled no contest|
|Jan. 27, 2012||Arrested on suspicion of DUI||Charges reduced|
|San Jose Mercury News|
Yes, at least 12.5 percent of the league was pursuing a man who could face jail time and/or a lengthy suspension and who has started just 14 games over the past two seasons. It's amazing what some front offices are willing to look past in order to win, and the reality is the Raiders are fully aware that Smith can help them win in a big way.
That fact isn't lost on head coach Jack Del Rio, who commented on the signing via the team's website: "Aldon is an extremely talented young player. We welcome him to the Raiders family and expect him to bring his best every day and be a great teammate."
This is, after all, someone who went seventh overall in the 2011 draft, recorded an insane 33.5 sacks in his first two NFL seasons and was voted by his peers league-wide as the second-best defensive player in football entering 2013.
|Most sacks in NFL history, first two seasons|
|1. Aldon Smith||2011/2012||49ers||33.5|
|2. Reggie White||1985/1986||Eagles||31.0|
|3. Von Miller||2011/2012||Broncos||30.0|
|3. Derrick Thomas||1989/1990||Chiefs||30.0|
|5. Shawne Merriman||2005/2006||Chargers||27.0|
|Sacks weren't an official stat until 1982 (Pro Football Reference)|
I wish I could alter the font size here to indicate just how big of an "if" Smith and the Raiders are dealing with, but IF—bold, capitals and italics will have to do—Smith can avoid missing a substantial amount of time when his current legal troubles are resolved and IF he can somehow avoid getting into further trouble, the Raiders could have the most explosive young pass-rushing duo in football.
Remember, the Raiders already have a young star on the edge with Khalil Mack, who finished third in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting last season. Despite recording only four sacks as a rookie in 2014, Mack managed to earn the second-best Pro Football Focus grade among all 4-3 outside linebackers.
The 2014 fifth overall pick is versatile enough to move around in the front seven but is expected to line up more often than not with his hand in the dirt within new head coach Jack Del Rio's system, per ESPN.com's Bill Williamson. There's little reason to believe the Buffalo product won't become a Pro Bowl-caliber player in the very near future.
Still, even with Mack balling out, the Raiders gave up the highest point total in football last season while ranking tied for 30th with only 22 sacks. Justin Tuck is 32 and has been dealing with injuries, and Mack can't carry them solo up front and from the edge.
That's why the Raiders are gambling here. And really, considering that they haven't been to the playoffs since 2002 and haven't won a Super Bowl since 1983, as well as the fact that their current Super Bowl odds from Odds Shark sit at 75/1, can you blame them?
Call it what you want. Maybe this is a reclamation project, or maybe it's just a business decision. Regardless, it has the potential to make the Raiders a hell of a lot better in an area in which they've already been emerging.
It's exciting, even if it's scary.
Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.