Seahawks coach Pete Carroll always says a team can never have enough pass rushers.
So, while Seattle may seem in good shape with rushers after re-signing Carlos Dunlap and Benson Mayowa and adding free agent Kerry Hyder, the Seahawks on Wednesday hosted one of the bigger-name rushers still available on a visit to the VMAC in Renton — Aldon Smith.
A source confirmed to The Seattle Times that Smith would visit after it was initially reported by the NFL Network. A visit does not necessarily mean that a signing is imminent, but it can often lead to one. Indications are there is legitimate nterest from both sides.
In fact, a report from SI.com Wednesday stated the Seahawks made a contract offer to Smith in mid-March but that those talks stalled due to concerns about Smith’s “personal issues.” SI.com said those issues led to Dallas deciding to “all but close the door on his return” for the 2021 season. But the visit by Smith to Seattle makes clear there remains interest.
Smith was once one of Seattle’s biggest headaches on the field, recording 42 sacks for the 49ers from 2011-13 when the two teams were battling it out for supremacy of the NFC West. He was a first-team All-Pro in 2012 when he had a career-high 19 1/2 sacks as the 49ers advanced to the Super Bowl.
But then Smith’s career began to be derailed by off-field issues and he did not play from 2016-19.
He was reinstated from an indefinite suspension for substance abuse-related issues last year (including an arrest for DUI and hit-and-run in 2015 that got him released from the 49ers) and spent the 2020 season with the Dallas Cowboys, playing on a one-year deal worth up to $2 million.
Smith, a 2011 first-round pick out of Missouri who is now 31, turned in just five sacks for the Cowboys in playing and starting all 16 games — in fact, he played 61% of the snaps or more in every contest.
But he had three sacks in the third game of the year against the Seahawks, and it may well be that game has piqued the interest of Carroll and general manager John Schneider — the Seahawks were rumored to have been interested in trading for Smith last season before trading for Dunlap.
Smith tailed off after that contest with just one sack in the last 13 games. Smith, though, had 50 pressures, and his ability to play a full season after missing the previous four may also have the Seahawks thinking he could be due for a bigger output.
Smith has 52 1/2 sacks in 75 career games.
Smith would undoubtedly come at a bargain price and would be the quintessential low-risk, potentially high-reward signee at this point.
Pro Football Focus offered this scouting report of Smith before the opening of the free agent signing period in March:
“It briefly seemed as though Aldon Smith’s return to the NFL was going to be genuinely spectacular. Through five weeks of the season, he had 25 total pressures, two more than T.J. Watt, and was coming off a nine-pressure game against the Giants. The rest of his season paled in comparison, and he heads into free agency without much hype or fanfare. We shouldn’t let the change in perception change his potential future, however. Smith played his first football since the 2015 season, and to come out of that with an above-average overall PFF grade (66.3) is an impressive achievement in and of itself. That he is still just 31 years old — and now with a year of football under his belt, as well as a year of staying out of trouble — makes him an interesting option for a team needing reinforcements on the defensive line..”
Along with re-signing Dunlap and Mayowa, the Seahawks also have second-year players Alton Robinson and Darrell Taylor as edge rushers. Taylor has yet to play, with the second-round pick missing all of last season while recovering from surgery to repair a stress fracture.
Hyder is expected to play the team’s five-technique defensive end spot, where Seattle also has Rasheem Green and L.J. Collier.
The 6-4, 258-pound Smith was officially listed as a linebacker during his four years with the 49ers and one year in 2015 with the Raiders and has always graded out well as a run defender. It’s possible the Seahawks might also be intrigued if Smith could fill the kind of role Bruce Irvin did before he was injured, playing strongside linebacker in the base defense and then rush end in the nickel. Seattle has just four linebackers under contract with K.J. Wright remaining a free agent.
The Seahawks have 63 players under contract — teams can have up to 90 when training camp begins. Seattle is listed with $7.9 million in available cap space as of Wednesday morning by OvertheCap.com, which includes the contract for cornerback Damarious Randall, whom the team announced it had re-signed on Friday. Randall’s contract was revealed Wednesday to be a veteran minimum deal, including a base salary of $990,000 for the 2021 season with a cap hit of $987,500.
Since March 17, Seattle has signed four free agents who played last year with other teams — Hyder, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, defensive tackle Al Woods and tight end Gerald Everett. Seattle also added guard Gabe Jackson in a trade.