Former San Francisco 49ers pass rusher Aldon Smith met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell earlier this month, and has been waiting ever since for word on his potential reinstatement from suspension. According to all the big media folks, Smith will not get reinstated this season, and his case will be re-visited next March.
Smith was suspended in November 2015 for his incident with the 49ers that resulted in his release. He got a one-year suspension, but had to then apply for reinstatement. The length of this would indicate it was effectively an indefinite suspension.
Smith played in nine games for the Raiders last season before the suspension, accumulating 3.5 sacks. The past four years while not entirely lost for Aldon, have not been pretty compared to what could have been. We hope first and foremost the Smith is straightening out his life and figuring out what he needs to do on a personal level. But it is still easy to consider what kind of numbers he could have put up if he had been able to stay on the field.
Smith’s first time away from the NFL came in 2013 after a DUI. He played the first three games of the season and had 4.5 sacks before leaving the team for rehab. He returned in Week 10, and had four more sacks the rest of the season.
In reality, Smith’s career peaked in 2012, and has been going downhill ever since. He had 14 sacks as a rookie in a pass rush specific role, and then 19.5 more in his second season. His 33.5 sacks through his first 32 games was a record. As Kyle Madson pointed out, Reggie White had 31 in his first 32 games, Von Miller had 30, J.J. Watt had 26, and Bruce Smith had 31.5.
Smith was on pace for insane numbers, although that does bring in the second talking point around Smith. How much of his production came due to Justin Smith, and how much was his own natural talent. We could compare with and after Justin Smith, but his suspensions and rehab stints are mixed in with that. I think Justin was a big part of Aldon’s development, but I also think Smith had rare speed and power that could have led to double digit sack totals regularly even without Justin Smith in front of him.
Of course, if you want to point more to Justin Smith’s contributions with regard to Aldon Smith, it ends up similar to the Bryant Young-Dana Stubblefield discussion from back in the 90s. Stubblefield won defensive player of the year, but a big reason for it was BY eating up a lot of the double teams. I think Aldon Smith had more natural tools than Stubblefield, but it’s an interesting discussion. If you are inclined to make that argument, given Aldon’s huge first two years, that right there would be an argument for why Justin Smith should get some Hall of Fame consideration. But that is a whole different discussion.
If Aldon Smith is reinstated for next season, it will have been a year and a half since he last played a regular season game. He very well could turn things around and return to being a productive pass rusher. Odds don’t seem to be in his favor, but I’ll still be rooting for him.