RENTON, Wash. - Spending four whole seasons away from the NFL for a slew of off-the-field issues, Aldon Smith revitalized his career in a Cowboys uniform last year. Playing in all 16 of Dallas's games, he put up 5.0 sacks, 48 combined tackles and recovered two fumbles—one of which he returned for a touchdown.
It appeared he had finally put his troubled past behind him, heading into free agency with some steam despite a lackluster second half of 2020 production-wise. But as Mike Fisher of CowboysSI.com reported in April, the 31-year old pass rusher was dealing with undisclosed "issues" that kept him from accepting a contract offer from the Seahawks near the start of free agency.
Nevertheless, the Seahawks kept tabs on him, just as they did the offseason prior when he was reinstated by the league, and later at the trade deadline. Fully aware of the risk, they invited him for a visit and the two sides came to an agreement on a one-year, $1.1 million contract on April 15.
Just four days later, however, disaster struck. Reports of a warrant being issued for Smith's arrest in Louisiana's St. Bernard Parish flooded social media, with allegations of second-degree battery being the cause. Smith turned himself in to authorities two days later, and has an arraignment set for July 14.
Unsure of what his future ultimately holds, Smith continues to prepare for the season and is doing so in the Pacific Northwest. However, he was absent from the Seahawks' three-day mandatory minicamp this week, instead working out on his own under the supervision of the team.
“He's in town and he's been working out,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters Thursday afternoon. "Didn't feel like he was ready for this yet, but we'll see how he handles himself through the summertime, the conditioning he gets into. But we're looking forward to him making it and getting out here. I just felt it was best for him at this point to just work out on his own."
Carroll says Smith has been in and out of the team's facility, maintaining a steady line of communication in the event he's able to play this fall. That's a fairly big "if," however, considering his past. Even if he's cleared of his charges in Louisiana or walks away with a punishment other than jail time, the possibility of a suspension—perhaps a permanent one—still looms.
Reading between the lines, Carroll sounds fairly confident Smith will eventually make an appearance at the team's training camp in July. Another potentially positive sign is the fact the Seahawks have yet to part ways with him, opting to see how his situation unfolds.
Last May, Seattle dealt with a similar situation with Quinton Dunbar, another newly-acquired player who was arrested in connection to an armed robbery in Florida. Despite several pieces of evidence and accounts linking Dunbar to the incident and suspected bribery of the witnesses, all charges against him were dropped and he went on to play in six games for the team before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Playing the waiting game once again, the Seahawks are hopeful Smith's situation plays out in a similar fashion. If it does, he isn't necessarily guaranteed a roster spot, but the idea of rotating him in and out at the LEO position with Carlos Dunlap and Benson Mayowa is certainly appealing. This would also open the door further for 2020 second-round pick Darrell Taylor to make the transition to strong-side linebacker, though it's likely he'll still be utilized at LEO on occasion whether Smith is cleared to play or not.
For now, the Seahawks are moving forward as if they'll have Smith, and they're happy with what they've seen from him throughout the process.
“He’s had a good impression that he’s made on us right now,’’ Carroll said. “He’s working hard at it.’’