Premier offensive lineman? Check. Edge defender with pass rush skills? Check. Elite cornerback? Check again.
Three days into the NFL’s free agency period, the Oakland Raiders have been among the most aggressive and successful teams, bulking up on talented – but still young – players who can make an enormous impact on a team that appears to be ready to challenge in the AFC West in 2016.
On Thursday morning reports surfaced from the NFL Network’s Rand Getlin that Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie had agreed to terms with former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith on a four-year deal worth $40 million. That comes on the heels of the Raiders locking up offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele of the Ravens and outside linebacker/defensive end Bruce Irvin of the Seahawks.
Those additions – plus more moves in free agency and the draft to add to a foundation of young stars such as quarterback Derek Carr, pass-rush phenom Khalil Mack and receiver Amari Cooper – figure to make a big difference for a team that went from 3-13 in 2014 to 7-9 in 2015.
Wrote Kevin Patra of NFL.com Thursday morning, after the Smith news: “Expect Oakland to be on many lists this offseason of buzzy teams ready to make the leap into the playoffs.”
Smith, 28, is a physical, 6-foot-3 corner who immediately makes the Oakland defense much better. He figures to start alongside David Amerson.
In three seasons with Kansas City, Smith had five interceptions and 46 passes defensed. Often, opposing quarterbacks declined to throw to his side of the field, going after the Chiefs’ other corners.
According to Pro Football Focus’ John Breitenbach, Smith was the NFL’s 12th-best cornerback in 2015, according to PFF’s grading system.
“While he gave up too many big plays (five touchdowns), he made his fair share of big plays himself (two picks and eight pass deflections),” wrote Breitenbach in a story posted Thursday. “Smith also limited opposing receivers to a catch rate of just 53.2 percent (42 of 79 targets). He’s one of the few corners capable of covering the physical specimens at receiver in press-man (coverage). Smith provides Oakland defensive coordinator Ken Norton flexibility to run any coverage he chooses.”
Smith, a second-round pick out of Utah in 2009, played his first four seasons for the Miami Dolphins before moving to Kansas City.
Wrote a happy Smith on his Twitter account Thursday morning: “I’m goin goin, back back, to Cali Cali.”