Bruising Blocker Lee Smith Happy to be Back

Tight end is a key piece to the running attack and is fit again after missing the final 12 games of the 2016 season

When the receiving stats are totaled at the end of the 2017 season, there’s little chance Lee Smith will rank at the top among tight ends.

With former Packer Jared Cook now on the roster, joining incumbent Clive Walford, quarterback Derek Carr now has a pair of fine, reliable receivers at the position.

But Smith figures to be just as important in the Raiders’ offensive scheme, and he loves being part of the team’s bright future. That’s one reason he agreed to a restructured contract in 2017 – the final year of a three-year deal.

According to Michael Gehlken, who covers the team for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Smith was due $2.75 million this season under the original terms. Now that salary is $1 million, but it’s fully guaranteed. Plus he’ll get another $1 million as a roster bonus and can earn as much as $1 million more based on playing time.

Smith is a key to the offense because of his blocking prowess. The Raiders lost him for the season after just four games in 2016 and missed his contributions to the running attack. The 6-foot-6, 265-pounder has a reputation for being able to block like a third offensive tackle. Plus, he’s an enthusiastic, energetic leader on the field.

“Anytime a guy that brings so much spirit to the team is back, it’s a good thing,” head coach Jack Del Rio told the media Wednesday. “He brings a lot of intangibles to the football team. He’s a tough guy, he’s a great teammate, he’s very, very dependable. Having him back and having him healthy and out here doing his thing is good for us.”

In six NFL seasons – the first four with Buffalo – Smith has just 38 receptions. His career high of 12 came in 2015, his first year with the Raiders.

Del Rio has said Smith is a “tough guy” who “understands what it takes to be able to run the ball.”

Smith says he’s eager to be a part of the Raiders success story in 2017, and will be happy to let other players have the spotlight.

“I like being behind the scenes,” he told a writer for the team’s website. “If my teammates have something nice to say about me because of the person I am or the way I play, there’s no bigger compliment to me in the world than that.”

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