Last offseason the Oakland Raiders signed cornerback Sean Smith to a four-year, $40 million deal, with $20 million guaranteed, to come in and be the team’s lockdown corner.
That did not exactly work out as planned in the first year of his contract though, as he struggled from the get-go, allowing New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandon Cooks to score a 98-yard touchdown in Week 1.
He then suffered a torn labrum that caused him to miss a game midway through the season, and when he came back he still was nit playing to the level he was capable of.
In 15 games Smith had just two interceptions and 11 passes defended to go along with 40 tackles. The 29-year-old recently addressed his rough 2016 season, and he believes he is going to turn it around in 2017, via Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Said Smith: “With careers of seven-, eight-plus (years), there is always going to be that one year that everyone looks at like, ‘Oh, man. Did he lose it? What’s going on?’ The coaches have said I’m flying around. I’ve got speed still. I feel great. That one year doesn’t define me. I know I’m way better than that. And I know what people are used to (from me), and I get it. Everyone wants the Sean of old. No problem. …Two-one is back.”
Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. has been watching Smith in practice the last couple weeks, and he also expects him to improve this season:
“Improvement. Competition, very competitive,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said of Smith. “Wants to really understand and get back to how he can play. I think that Sean Smith is an outstanding player. He’s improving out here. Last year is last year. We all have made our mistakes. We’re very impressed with where he is now.”
With the Raiders spending a first round draft pick on Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, there will be less expectations for Smith to be a lockdown No. 1 corner this upcoming season, which should help take pressure off the eight-year veteran.