The Raiders will look for more defensive help this offseason. Upgrading the unit may be the team’s biggest need going toward the 2017 season.
Now it appears the first big addition may come in the form of current Raider Aldon Smith.
Jimmy Durkin of the Bay Area News Group has reported that Smith – who did not play in 2016 while being suspended by the NFL – could be reinstated by the league in March. That would allow Smith, who signed a two-year deal with Oakland last offseason, to be ready to participate in the team’s offseason program.
The Raiders and Smith had hoped Smith would be cleared to play for the Raiders during the second half of the 2016 season, but that didn’t happen.
The former 49ers standout, who had seasons of 14 and 19½ sacks in his first two years with the Niners, played in nine games for the Raiders in 2015 and totaled 3½ sacks and 28 tackles before being suspended by the league for violating its substance-abuse policies. He applied for reinstatement this past season, but never was cleared to return to action.
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweeted Sunday that Smith will be reinstated in March, according to scoures, “barring a slip up in the drug program.”
Adding Smith to a front seven that already includes Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin would certainly seem to be a huge upgrade for the Oakland pass rush. But Conor Orr of NFL.com wrote Sunday that Raiders fans should take a wait-and-see approach if Smith comes back.
“This is a scenario with plenty of caveats,” wrote Orr. “Is Oakland’s defense just another speed rusher away from greatness? Has Smith kept in pristine shape during his time off? Will he mesh with the current Raiders staff?
“It’s impossible to ignore Smith’s incredible talent, which is why the Raiders took a chance on him after repeated issues. Will their patience end up paying off?”