Aldon Smith was once one of the most promising defensive players in the NFL, but years of trouble have derailed what would have been a tremendous career. Will he ever get another chance?
Not too long ago, Aldon Smith was one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL. He burst onto the scene as the San Francisco 49ers first round draft pick in 2011 as a player considered to have a high ceiling, thanks to his combination of size and athleticism. He lived up to the billing, at least to start his career.
Smith finished his rookie season with an impressive 14 sacks, only a half-sack shy of Jevon Kearse’s rookie record. Flanked by a number of All-Pro teammates — Justin Smith, NaVorro Bowman, and Patrick Willis — Smith would go on to finish second in the AP Rookie Defensive Player of the Year race to Von Miller. But even without the hardware, it seemed Aldon was set to have a bright future as a key cog on a talented Jim Harbaugh-led Niners team — a team that made it to their second consecutive NFC Championship game in Smith’s rookie season.
San Francisco unleashed a new beast in 2012, naming Smith a full-time starter at outside linebacker. As the Niners surged to the Super Bowl, Smith became the fastest player in league history to record 30 sacks (in only 27 games). After picking up 19.5 sacks in his sophomore campaign, Aldon’s total through two seasons was now up to 31.5, breaking Reggie White’s record.
After two impactful seasons to start his career, Smith started his third season with the Niners with a bang, recording 4.5 sacks in the first three games. At this pace, he was going to be a major threat to Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record. And the scary part was that he was only 24 years old, and still getting better.
But things went downhill from here. Smith’s involvement in a number of incidents derailed what was once a promising career. Starting in September of 2012, Aldon could not keep himself out of trouble.
- September 2012: Aldon Smith named in lawsuit over shooting at a 2012 house party at his South Bay home. Smith was also stabbed that night.
- September 2013: Arrested in San Jose for a DUI and marijuana possession after crashing his black pickup truck into a tree.
- October 2013: Deputies searched Smith’s home and found assault rifles, magazines, and ammunition. He was charged with three felony weapons counts stemming from the shooting at the 2012 house party.
- October 2013: Aldon posts $75,000 bail for illegal assault weapon charge.
- November 2013: An NBC Bay Area investigation looks into the possibility of the Santa Clara Sheriff giving Smith special treatment, funneling him in and out of jail faster than standard procedure. Aldon had a good relationship with SCPD and attended multiple fundraising events. Sheriff Laurie Smith denies conflict of interest.
- April 2014: Smith is arrested at LAX after becoming “belligerent” and “uncooperative” following a random screening. According to authorities, Smith claimed to be in possession of a bomb.
- April 2014: Civil lawsuit settled.
- May 2014: Aldon pleas “no contest” to three felony counts of illegal possession of assault weapons and two misdemeanor DUI counts.
- July 2014: Smith is sentenced to 11 days in a work program.
- August 2014: NFL suspends Aldon for nine games for violating league policies.
- August 2015: Arrested for a hit-and-run, DUI, and Vandalism.
- March 2017: Smith is detained as a drunk passenger in car crash involving a police vehicle.
After the Niners released Smith in 2015, he inked a one-year deal with the Raiders. He showed flashes in his nine games played, but he wasn’t close to the same player. To make matters worse, he was ultimately handed an indefinite suspension due to his hit-and-run in August of 2015.
Despite this, he re-signed with the Raiders in 2016 and applied for reinstatement into the NFL when eligible in November. The Raiders and their fans were hopeful that Smith would be reinstated, but the wait still continues.
Due to his continued suspension, the Raiders will own his rights until Roger Goodell makes a decision. It’s been a long wait for Smith to return to action, and perhaps Josh Gordon’s reinstatement will keep the door open for Aldon to one day be granted that same opportunity.
He is still just 28 years old, and there are plenty of pass rushers older than that who are making a sizable impact. So if his head is on straight, the team can certainly use another pass rusher to help lift some of the burden off of Khalil Mack. But for now, all Raider Nation can do is sit back and hope that he’ll get another chance.