Heading into the final stretch of the 2016 regular season, the Oakland Raiders defense was consistently making game changing plays, but was lacking some in some facets of the game. Heading into the playoffs, the Raiders expected the emergence of Aldon Smith to be a catalyst moving forward, but they were disappointed in the results.
Smith was given a yearlong suspension from the NFL for violating the substance abuse policy. The defensive end did not take the punishment lightly, but understood the decision was final. Alas, Smith spent the majority of the second half of the season active in a possible reinstatement process.
With each and every week, the NFL provided a vague response, as the Raiders believed his presence could truly be a difference maker. Alas, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that Smith would not be reinstated for the Raiders playoff run, as his case would be revisited in the offseason.
Now that Super Bowl LI has concluded, the offseason is officially underway. With that notion, it appears the NFL has come to an agreement about Smith and his situation, via Ian Rapoport of NFL Network:
#Raiders LB Aldon Smith will be reinstated in March, sources say, barring a slip up in the drug program. His request was deferred in Dec.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 5, 2017
However, the expected reinstatement won’t come without any criteria. Smith will have to pass the numerous drug tests he will likely face, whether they are scheduled or random.
Although he didn’t play in a single game this season, both the Raiders and their fans understand the presence the sixth-year player has.
In nine games (seven starts) with the Raiders in 2015, the 27-year-old totaled 21 tackles (with seven assists), with 3.5 sacks and three passes defended.
Heading into next season, Jack Del Rio and Ken Norton Jr. will have one of the most intimidating pass rushing attacks in the NFL. While AP defensive player of the year Khalil Mack leading the charge and drawing double teams, Smith, Reggie Nelson and Bruce Irvin will wreak havoc on the opposing teams offensive line.