The Seahawks’ gamble on oft-troubled defensive end Aldon Smith has ended as the team waived him Wednesday afternoon shortly before practice at the VMAC.
The Seahawks signed linebacker Lakiem Williams, a linebacker from Spanaway Lake High who played at Syracuse, to take his place on the 90-man roster.
Smith, 31, was signed April 15 to a one-year deal for the veteran minimum of $1.127 million that included a $137,500 signing bonus.
Two days later, he was involved in an incident that eventually resulted in his arrest on suspicion of second-degree battery in the New Orleans area — he has an arraignment scheduled for Aug. 24. The Seahawks said that they would let the legal process play out and that his release is not related to that incident.
Instead, indications are Smith violated the terms of the team’s conditions that were set when it signed him in April, as a source said the release also was not due to Smith’s play on the field.
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the league’s official media arm, said that the release was due to Smith’s “personal issues,” and that while each side tried to make it work “it was just too much. I think at some point there was just not a way forward for both sides. Kind of came to a head early this morning. Smith was not going to be at practice (Wednesday).”
Smith has a well-documented history of incidents related to substance abuse. When he met with the media in July, he said his sobriety was most important in his life.
“I have a tremendous support staff,” Smith said July 31. “For me, it was just making myself vulnerable and being willing to trust and lean on the people. I’ve always had people that were there, but I’ve always tried to carry everything on my shoulders. Letting people help me and accepting that help was a major game changer.”
His April arrest was the latest off-field incident in a career marked with them — Smith did not play from 2016-19 due to a variety of incidents that included three arrests for driving under the influence from 2011 to 2015, a hit-and-run arrest and a plea deal in 2018 on a domestic-violence charge.
Despite the April arrest, the Seahawks were optimistic that Smith could thrive with their support while making clear he would have to meet his responsibilities to play.
Coach Pete Carroll had said the team “did a lot of homework’’ on Smith before deciding to sign him and was confident he would be able to avoid the issues that had derailed a career that began with so much promise with the 49ers — he was a first-team All-Pro in 2012.
“We’re going to be there for him, we’re going to look after him — he’s one of us,” Carroll said. “He’s going to get everything we’ve got every step of the way. The burden falls on him, and he knows that. But it’s really important, I think, for him to feel the support.
“… We’ve been very upfront and very straightforward, and we’re going to be there, we’re going to be strong for him, and tough for him. And we’re also going to love him up as much as we can and help him through this.”
It appeared ominous when Smith was not on the field for Seattle’s offseason training program. Carroll said at the time that it was his decision and that he felt Smith simply wasn’t ready to practice yet. Smith said later he wasn’t in shape, saying he was overweight last year with Dallas.
Smith was present for all of Seattle’s training camp workouts through Tuesday and saw action in Sunday’s mock game — he kept the ball alive on a fumble that Poona Ford eventually recovered and returned for a touchdown.
Smith had appeared to revive his career last year with the Cowboys making five sacks, three in a September game against the Seahawks in Seattle.
When Smith met the media in July, he said his four-year absence from the NFL had made him even more appreciative about having more chances to continue to play.
“I was blessed with the opportunity to get back and play the game, and I’m grateful for that,” Smith said.
Smith was battling for a spot on the roster as a rush end and edge player. Seattle loaded up on edge rushers this offseason, and Smith’s addition was regarded as something of a luxury, a gamble that could pay off greatly but also wouldn’t prove too damaging if it didn’t work out.
Williams, meanwhile, helps the Seahawks fill out depth at a position that has been hit with injuries. Cody Barton, Jon Rhattigan and Nate Evans have all missed recent practices, which has had fullback Nick Bellore, a former linebacker, forced to move back to defense for practices most of the past week.
Williams went undrafted following the 2020 season and was briefly with Ottawa in the CFL this summer.