McKenzie, Del Rio Say They Still Have Interest in Aldon Smith

GM, head coach are keeping tabs on free-agent linebacker who will remain suspended until November

The Raiders have done much to improve their defense already, adding outside linebacker/defensive end Bruce Irvin and premier cornerback Sean Smith. They’ve also been linked to other free agents still on the market.

Plus, the NFL draft is right around the corner, which will mean some young prospects joining the unit coached by Ken Norton Jr.

But despite all these additions, that doesn’t mean the Raiders still don’t have interest in Aldon Smith. They do.

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, speaking at the NFL annual meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., told a reporter that he’s continuing to reach out to Smith’s representatives. Smith, who played nine games for the Raiders in 2015 before being suspended for a year by the NFL, is an unrestricted free agent who can sign with any team. He won’t be eligible to practice or play for that team, however, until November when the suspension is lifted. He was suspended by the league because of violating NFL policies on substance abuse.

“The conversations have been good,” McKenzie told Matt Maiocco. “Really, it’s encouraging him as a person to continue to get his life right. And if you’re going to commit to this thing, you have to go through some steps. And that’s what he’s going through now.”

Adding Smith, 26, to the Raiders lineup midway through the 2016 season would give the Raiders’ pass rush an extra jolt. Smith had 3½ sacks last season for Oakland in a reduced role, and he had 44 sacks in 50 games with the 49ers in four seasons before being released.

Smith can’t apply for reinstatement to the NFL until September.

Tuesday morning, Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio also noted the team’s interest in Smith. He added, in comments to the media at the NFL annual meetings, that he believes it would be better for Smith to be with the team rather than on his own.

“It’s unfortunate that this is the case because I think a lot of cases, a lot of times, these young men could use some of that mentoring role from coaches,” Del Rio said, according to’s Paul Gutierrez. “It’s not always about football. Sometimes we’re just helping men be good men, so I think having that support system could be beneficial. But I’m not the doctor here and I don’t make the rules.”

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