Oakland has a Sean Smith problem.
There’s no use in beating around the bush, not after his appalling performance in the preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals. The Oakland Raiders signed the veteran cornerback to a four-year, $40 million contract, with $20 million guaranteed, to be a shutdown corner. Yet, the only thing getting shut down has been Smith’s sloppy pass coverage.
Defensive backs Karl Joseph, David Amerson and Reggie Nelson were already on the sidelines after a few defensive drives at the beginning of the game. In fact, the only marquee member of the secondary still on the field by halftime was the cornerback with the richest contract.
Save the “it was only preseason talk” for a another day.
Smith was on the field getting shook out of his shoes by Chris Hubert, a 2016 undrafted rookie. The only saving grace from Hubert’s best Steph Curry impression was the ball being overthrown by backup quarterback Drew Stanton.
— Nick Hjeltness (@NickHjeltness) August 13, 2017
Smith was definitely counting his blessings after multiple busted coverages and a pair of costly penalties. However, those blessings still couldn’t save him from a barrage of joke-filled tweets.
Sean Smith getting penalties like it's his job out here.
— Will Reeve Jr (@WillReeveJr) August 13, 2017
Me watching Sean Smith tonight pic.twitter.com/61g2iSydgT
— The Mad Raider (@RaiderLoot) August 13, 2017
— D (@RaiderMaverick) August 13, 2017
— Don Jackson II (@DaBay4LF) August 13, 2017
Things don’t seem to be working out for Smith in Oakland, period.
What he showed on the field on Saturday night was many of the same things he showed in the 2016 season. He is too often outleveraged and caught out of position. It’s one thing to see a player struggle against a starting quarterback and the first-unit offense, but it’s something else entirely when it’s a backup and the second or third offense.
The Raiders actually downgraded Smith to the second-team defense due to the struggles he has been showing in training camp. T.J. Carrie was given the start against the Cardinals before Smith was allowed to come off the bench. That’s not a good sign for a player who counts as the fourth-highest cap hit on the Raiders roster.
If this trend of poor play continues, the Raiders will have a serious decision on their hands. Do they keep Smith, or pay him the rest of his money and send him on his way?
Earlier in the year, retired defensive back and future NFL Hall of Famer Charles Woodson denounced Smith’s unsatisfactory level of play considering the amount of money he was making.
“That didn’t go as well as anybody would have hoped,” said Woodson, after the Raiders’ playoff loss to the Houston Texans. “When it comes to situational football, when you bring in a guy like that, you’ve got to be able to get off the field [defensively].“If you’re brought in to be a lock-down corner, you’ve got to be a lock-down corner. You’ve got to hold guys to short gains, tackle them when they catch the ball, don’t let guys get through the teeth of the defense.”
So far, Smith hasn’t done any of that.
He has mostly stood back in coverage, looking every bit of 30 as younger receivers blow past him. There are still three more exhibition games left for Smith to force the Raiders to see him in a different light. That light better be worth $20 million.
A player on a No. 1 corner salary playing on the second-team defense — nothing short of an astounding turnaround will ever make up for a contract like that.
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