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Aldon Smith Getting Fresh Start with Young, Talented Oakland Raiders Pass Rush

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistSeptember 11, 2015

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith (99) against the Washington Redskins during an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

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. 

KTVU @KTVU

JUST IN: Santa Clara Co DA files 3 misdemeanor chgs against Aldon Smith. Charges include DUI w/ prior conviction, vandalism and hit n run

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. 

Jason Cole @JasonCole62

Deal for Aldon Smith with #Raiders is worth up to $8M for the year with roster incentives. Smith turned down more $ from other teams ...

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
DateIncident
Aug. 6, 2015Charged with hit-and-run, DUI and vandalismTBD
Apr. 13, 2014Arrested: suspicion of making false bomb threatNo charges
Oct. 29, 2013Charged: 3 counts of possessing illegal weaponsPled no contest
Sept. 20, 2013Arrested on suspicion of DUIPled no contest
Jan. 27, 2012Arrested on suspicion of DUICharges 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. 

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Most sacks in NFL history, first two seasons
PlayerYearsTeamSacks
1. Aldon Smith2011/201249ers33.5
2. Reggie White1985/1986Eagles31.0
3. Von Miller2011/2012Broncos30.0
3. Derrick Thomas1989/1990Chiefs30.0
5. Shawne Merriman2005/2006Chargers27.0
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. 

Chris Trapasso @ChrisTrapasso

Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith on the edges of the same defensive line is probably not even possible in a Madden draft.

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? 

Jim Trotter @JimTrotter_NFL

League office says said Aldon Smith is "free to play at this time." Key words: at this time. NFL is still reviewing his case. #Raiders

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.

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