If you somehow missed it yesterday, defensive end Aldon Smith is currently wanted on second degree battery charges in Louisiana's St. Bernard Parish. This comes mere days after Smith - who's had several run-ins with the law throughout his career - signed with the Seahawks on a one-year deal.
While Smith has yet to be arrested/turn himself in and details are still few and far between as of this writing, what's trickled out thus far spells a bleak outlook for Smith's status in 2021 and his NFL career as a whole. Given his troubled past - which includes a four-year hiatus due in part to an act of domestic violence against his then fiancée - his chances of playing a single down in a Seahawks uniform are quickly diminishing, let alone his ability to return to the NFL in general.
If it is proven that Smith is guilty of such charges, then Seattle will likely have no other choice but to release him and move on.
From a football perspective, it's a tough blow to a team that put the cherry on top of its defensive line overhaul by signing Smith. Injecting him into a rotation with the likes of Carlos Dunlap, Benson Mayowa, Kerry Hyder Jr., and others finalized a group of pass rushers that is inarguably the deepest the Seahawks have had since the days of Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and company.
That statement may very well remain true even if they enter 2021 without Smith, however. Once the Seahawks reunited with Dunlap on a two-year deal shortly after bringing Hyder and Mayowa on board, they seemed pretty much set at defensive end. Their interest in Smith came as a surprise to many, thus making his eventual signing appear more of a luxury than a need.
Therefore, it stands to reason the Seahawks are still in a very good place no matter what happens with Smith's legal issues. In addition to Dunlap, Hyder, and Mayowa, they also have second-year man Alton Robinson returning alongside Rasheem Green, an improved L.J. Collier, and 2020 second-round selection Darrell Taylor.
The arrival and presence of Smith potentially throws a wrench in the expectations for the quartet of Robinson, Green, Collier, and Taylor. First and foremost, it's hard to see how all four make their way onto the roster in its current structure. Green appears to be the odd man out after disappointing through his first three seasons in the NFL, while Robinson may suddenly lose out on significant playing time despite an impressive rookie campaign.
The biggest question mark of all, of course, is Taylor. Spending the entire 2020 season rehabbing a leg injury suffered in college, it's been long anticipated he'll be fully healthy and ready to contribute right out of the gate this fall. But Seattle's continued emphasis to lengthen its depth on the edge is concerning, because it may be potentially damning of Taylor's health.
It could also be as simple as not wanting to overwhelm Taylor in his return to game action, which will be his first at the NFL level. Or perhaps it's an indication that he could move to strong-side linebacker in place of veteran free agent K.J. Wright.
While all that remains to be seen, one thing is pretty clear: the Seahawks were uncomfortable with their group before the Smith signing, and likely feel the same way now that they're faced with his potentially quick and unexpected departure. If so, they don't need to fret or panic; they still have considerable depth, especially if Taylor is indeed healthy, and there's plenty of options remaining to supplement Smith's likely absence.
The draft won't yield many results as this year's class of defensive linemen is pretty weak. But the free agency market still has some quality veteran pieces who should be able to contribute close to - or even beyond - what Smith brings/brought to the table. Among those names are Olivier Vernon, Justin Houston, Melvin Ingram, Trent Murphy, Everson Griffen, and more.
So, while the news of Smith's incident is an unwelcome development, the Seahawks won't be left without a few fallback plans at their disposal if they're forced to part ways. OverTheCap.com has them at a little over $7.5 million in salary cap space to land one of the aforementioned free agents, but they may be fine as is with what they have.
It's an unfortunate situation, but they could be in a far worse spot than they are right now. It will certainly be a letdown for the organization if Smith doesn't play for them, but it shouldn't have ramifications significant enough to undermine or derail the rest of the work they've done along their defensive line this offseason.