The 49ers released Smith on Aug. 7 after he was arrested the night before on hit-and-run, driving under the influence and vandalism charges. He was charged with three misdemeanors Friday in the incident, which was his fifth arrest since 2012.
Here are several thoughts on this intriguing, complicated move:
How long will he play: The big question is whether Smith is going to be suspended stemming from the Aug. 7 arrest. He was suspended for nine games last year. If Smith gets a short suspension or isn’t banned at all, the Raiders will probably get some good value out of him. That is, if he can stay out of trouble.
Long-term future: If Smith plays well this season, stays out of trouble and likes playing with the Raiders, it could be a head-start on a long-term deal with Oakland. The Raiders will be flush in salary-cap room, and Smith will be a sought-after commodity if he shows he’s still a Hall of Fame-caliber player and can stay out of trouble.
He’s needed: The Raiders had 22 sacks last season, tied for the second-fewest in the NFL. A Smith-Khalil Mack tandem could be a beautiful thing for the Raiders. It could make this defense special and combat their weakness at cornerback. I could see Smith, who practiced Friday, play Sunday against Cincinnati. If it works, it could be a great thing for the Raiders.
Good landing spot: Smith gets to stay in the Bay Area, where he has a support system. This transition will likely be smooth, and Smith won’t have a lot of outside adjustments. He can just slip in and play football.
Risk for the Raiders: Oakland owner Mark Davis has received credit for staying away from troubled players. The Raiders were reportedly interested in pass-rusher Greg Hardy, but because of Hardy's domestic violence history, Davis said no. Domestic violence is a hot-button topic for Davis in part because Raiders’ Hall of Fame receiver Fred Biletnikoff’s daughter was murdered in a domestic violence attack. Davis should be applauded for his approach. But signing Smith shows talent often overshadows character judgment. It’s OK. Every team does it in some form. But this signing shows the Raiders are not above reproach when it comes to signing questionable characters. The Raiders do have a strong locker room, with Charles Woodson and Justin Tuck to provide mentoring for Smith. The 49ers also had strong leadership with Patrick Willis and Justin Smith during Aldon Smith’s tenure. Smith’s issues are not on the team; they’re on him. If this is going to work for Smith and the Raiders, it will be because he’s ready to make it work.