Antonio Smith is going to make it a baker's dozen in the NFL. The free-agent defensive end reportedly signed with the Houston Texans on Tuesday, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, confirming he intends to play his 13th year in the league.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, he will replace J.J. Watt on the Texans roster after the All-Pro was placed on injured reserve with a back injury.
Between 2009 and 2014, Smith started a total of 94 games, averaging 21.7 tackles and five sacks a year.
He then signed a one-year deal with the Denver Broncos. Denver wasn't lacking in defensive talent, which meant Smith took on a much less prominent role than he had with the Oakland Raiders and Texans in the previous few years.
For the first time since his rookie year in 2004, Smith failed to start a regular-season game, finishing the year with nine combined tackles and 2.5 sacks. Strictly in terms of numbers, 2015 was one of his worst in the league, and Pro Football Focus graded him the 83rd-best interior defender in the league.
Chances are, Smith's duties wouldn't have grown much more in 2016 even if he had signed with another team this offseason. His skills have steadily diminished since his 2011 Pro Bowl season, and few, if any, teams would've been prepared to give him a starting job in Week 1.
In addition, the Broncos' Super Bowl title offered Smith an opportunity to end his career on a high note. It doesn't get any better than winning a championship in your last action on the field.
In February, Smith remained noncommittal about his future, per Troy Renck of the Denver Post:
Given all the factors involved, retirement looked like his most likely option. Instead, the 34-year-old is going to give it at least one more go-round.
Even if Smith plays a similarly minor role with Houston as he did in Denver last year, he should have a positive impact on the Texans. Not only is he a more than serviceable backup, his experience could serve to help Jadeveon Clowney's development on the field.