Raise your hand if you saw this coming.
Per multiple reports, the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday signed former Raiders and 49ers defensive end/outside linebacker Aldon Smith to a one-year contract.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Smith inked a $4 million pact — $2 million in base salary and an additional $2 million in unlockable incentives.
Smith has confirmed the news on his Instagram account.
Once-upon-a-time the gold standard among young edge defenders, Smith hasn’t played a down of professional football since 2015, falling out of the league due to multiple off-field incidents and substance-abuse issues.
Smith’s third arrest for Driving Under the Influence, in August 2015, after serving a nine-game suspension the previous season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse and personal conduct policies, precipitated his release from the San Francisco 49ers, who drafted the Missouri product with the No. 7 overall pick in 2011. It also earned Smith a one-year suspension.
He landed with the Raiders in 2016 but was forced to sit out the following two campaigns as his request for reinstatement was not granted. Smith was involved in an alleged domestic violence episode in 2018, which prompted the Raiders to cut ties.
It was reported last month that Smith, who’s kept his nose clean since the 2018 incident, was in the process of applying for reinstatement, coinciding with the league’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement which loosened the substance-abuse policy.
“Clean and sober now, incredible how much he’s turned his life around,” FOX Sports insider Jay Glazer said on Wednesday night’s Fox Football Now, via Pro Football Talk.
Commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to rule on Smith’s fate, and there’s a better-than-good chance he’s allowed back into the sport.
Smith is arguably the highest-profile addition made by defensive-hungry Dallas this offseason, joining defensive linemen Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and ex-Pro Bowl kicker Greg Zuerlein.
For his career, Smith’s totaled 180 tackles, 47.5 sacks, eight pass breakups and five forced fumbles across 59 games. His best year came in 2012 when he tallied 19.5 sacks, an exceptional encore after a 14-sack rookie debut.
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Smith’s Role with Cowboys
Assuming he’s reinstated, of course, he’ll require an adjustment period entering his age-31 season, having been out of work for so long. Complicating matters is the absence of offseason programs and open training facilities, thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Smith, like his new teammates, might not see The Star until July.
But once he’s up to speed, Smith will juice a lacking Cowboys pass-rush. His acquisition helps offset the loss of last season’s team sack leader, Robert Quinn, who bolted to the Chicago Bears in free agency. Smith joins a stacked defensive line which features DeMarcus Lawrence and McCoy, and, when he’s standing up, an uber-talented linebacker corps highlighted by Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee.
Smith’s arrival could also spell doom for de facto starting DE Tyrone Crawford, the subject of swirling release rumors. Widely considered overpaid, Crawford’s departure would create $8 million in salary-cap space while leaving behind only $1.1 million in dead money.
It’s an ideal landing spot for Smith, who reunites with former 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula, now the Cowboys’ defensive line coach.
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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL