The Oakland Raiders finished 12-4 and have a lot to look forward to in the future, but there were disappointments along the way.
The Oakland Raiders re-introduced themselves in 2016, finishing the season with a 12-4 record and earning their first playoff berth in 14 years. This was a season to remember for Raider Nation, but even a 12-4 team will have some disappointments
The one player that disappointed the most was Sean Smith.
Smith entered the 2016 season as a free agent and had a list of teams to pick from, one of which being the Raiders. On March 10, 2016, at around 3:00am, Smith inked a four-year, $38 million deal with the Raiders.
Many were under the assumption that Smith would be a plug and play type of player and would present an immediate impact for the Raiders on defense. That was not the case.
In Week 1, Smith went up against Brandin Cooks and was “cooked” on multiple occasions, one of which included giving up a 98-yard touchdown. Smith was benched for the remainder of the game. You really know it’s bad when the player that you were benched in favor of is D.J. Hayden.
The following week, Smith would have to go up against All-Pro Julio Jones. It was another forgettable performance in which Smith gave up a 21-yard touchdown, as well as a 48-yard reception late in the game which proved to be crucial.
In weeks 3-5, Smith would perform slightly better by allowing a total of 60 yards, and accumulated an interception, but gave up a crucial 17-yard reception in the Titans game that nearly resulted in a touchdown, which could have sent the game into overtime.
Over the next several weeks, Smith’s play became increasingly inconsistent. Smith played well against inferior receiving corps such as the Chiefs, Jaguars and the Texans, but struggled against the better receivers in the NFL.
In Week 12, Smith struggled mightily against the Panthers when going up against Kelvin Benjamin. Smith gave up a 44-yard touchdown that gave the Panthers an 8-point lead, and was burned at the line on multiple occasions.
By the end of the season, Smith gave up a total of 999 receiving yards which was the 2nd most in the entire NFL. Smith’s stat-line included 40 tackles, 11 passes defensed, and only 2 interceptions.
These are relatively disappointing numbers considering how solid Sean Smith has been for the majority of his career. Regardless of who you sign to a $38 million deal, you should expect more production out of that player.
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The one positive to take out of this is that the Raiders will not be tied to Sean Smith past 2017. In 2017, Smith is set to have a base salary of $5 million, with a $4.25 million roster bonus. These are numbers that the Raiders can live with, thanks to Reggie McKenzie’s artistry at mastering the NFL cap.
After the 2017 season, the Raiders will have $0 in dead money left on Sean Smith’s contract. Meaning, they can release Smith after the 2017 season without any direct hit to the cap.
You never want to see any player in Silver and Black fail, so with that said, you would hope that Smith can put together a better overall performance in 2017.
Cornerback is a position that the Raiders will most likely target in this year’s draft. If Sean Smith can’t improve upon 2016, you can fully expect him to be replaced, and his time in Oakland will most likely be over.