NFL AM: Aldon Smith Suspended For A Year


NFL suspends Aldon Smith for a year:

The Oakland Raiders knew they took a risk when they signed troubled linebacker Aldon Smith about a month after an arrest and subsequent release from the San Francisco 49ers.

Smith had a history of issues already in San Francisco, and the 49ers decided enough was enough, releasing the ultra-talented pass rusher after his arrest for hit and run, DUI and vandalism in August.

The Raiders weren’t the only team interested in Smith, but the explosive linebacker signed with Oakland in early September, teaming him up with first-round pick and budding star Khalil Mack. While Smith wasn’t putting up some of the numbers he compiled in San Francisco, recording just 3.5 sacks in nine games, he and Mack were one of the better pass rushing tandems in the league.

For now, the Raiders say they’re standing by the troubled former first-round pick during this time and have him as part of their long term plan. Unlike many other years in Oakland where turnover could possibly be part of the equation, the Raiders play means Jack Del Rio and general manager Reggie McKenzie should be there to live up to that word a year from now.

“Aldon has been a positive addition to the Raiders,” McKenzie said via a statement. “He remains prominently in our long term plans and we will continue to support this member of our family as he gets the help that he needs.”

For Smith, it’s time to do just that. It’s time for him to learn how to control himself away from the game of football so that he can take full advantage of his next opportunity whether that be in Oakland or elsewhere.

Smith will be a free agent when he’s eligible to file for reinstatement next November, when there will surely be multiple teams ready to sign the talented pass rusher.

For his part, Smith sounds determined to get his life together and to rejoin the Raiders who would likely be thrilled to once again add him into the fold.

“First, I want to thank the Raiders, my teammates, the fans, our coaches and our owner for supporting me throughout all of this,” Smith said in a statement.

“I am taking this time to work on myself and become the man I need to be, my team and organization needs me to be, and I know I can be. I had lost my love for the game and it led me to some poor choices, but I am thankful to the Raider organization for believing in me this season and will continue to better myself and grow from my experiences. I look forward to rejoining the team next year.”

Hopefully this punishment helps Smith figure it out, and hopefully it helps deter other players from getting into the kind of trouble that he has. It likely won’t. People usually aren’t thinking about the consequences of the law or how it will affect their personal life when they’re committing crimes.

Hopefully this does end up being the wakeup call Smith needs, and he can figure things out over the next year and be worthy of reinstatement and another shot at his NFL career. His ability guarantees that a next shot is coming if he can get his life together, so hopefully he has some good people in his corner.

Browns commit to Johnny Manziel as starting quarterback:

It took longer than it should have, but the Cleveland Browns finally announced on Tuesday that Johnny Manziel would be the starter for the team’s remaining six games.

At 2-8, the Browns season is down the drain, and that isn’t because Josh McCown has been terrible. He hasn’t, and at times, McCown has even been very good, but none of that means he should have been the signal caller in Cleveland.

Whether or not McCown was good, the Browns were not. When you’re a bad football team, it should always be about building for a better future, and outside of helping prepare Manziel, there’s nothing McCown can do about the team’s future.

The only logical move for the Browns was to start Manziel to see if he could be the franchise quarterback they’re hoping for. It probably should have been the decision Week 1, but it certainly shouldn’t have taken until Week 11 for the Browns to finally make the call.

Manziel hasn’t been fantastic when he’s been on the field, but he’s shown flashes, and it’s important to remember where he is in his development. While you can factually call Manziel a second-year quarterback, he’s essentially a rookie.

Manziel’s next start will be his sixth in the NFL. That’s fewer than Jameis Winston, or even Marcus Mariota who has missed a pair of games in his rookie campaign.

Manziel wasn’t the first or second pick in the draft like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans starters, and he was never handed the keys to the car and given a football team as his own. Much of that was Manziel’s doing, but the fact remains the Browns not only invested a first-round pick on Manziel, they traded other assets to move back into the first round of to do so.

Whether or not the former Heisman Trophy winner made it difficult by showing so much immaturity as a rookie, and whether or not he gives them the best chance to win games right now, the Browns had an obligation to roll this guy out there and figure out if that investment is the future.

The Browns will get nine starts out of Manziel this season, but they’d probably know a lot more about the young man had they given him 16.

Giants sign Hakeem Nicks as Victor Cruz heads to the IR:

It was hard for the New York Giants or their fans not to be optimistic when thinking about pairing a returning Victor Cruz with offensive rookie of the year, and emerging superstar Odell Beckham Jr.

That scene will not be realized in 2015, as Cruz announced Tuesday that he will have season-ending surgery on the calf that’s kept him out the entire season.

“I know that I have to retool my brain and my body to get back to 100 percent and come back the other end firing,” Cruz said. “This is a tough time for me, a tough time for my family, a tough time for all of us, because we were so excited about coming back and being a part of something special this year. But unfortunately, I couldn’t do that due to my calf injury.

“I hope you guys don’t lose faith in me, because I haven’t lost faith in myself.”

This is a major setback for Cruz who was lost for most of the 2014 season with an ACL. The Giants are going to have to decide if they believe he can get back to the explosive playmaker who played a major role in the team’s last Super Bowl run.

In the meantime, New York will look to a former Giants receiver and first-round pick Hakeem Nicks as the team tries to add receiver depth in the wake of learning Cruz would be finished for the season.

Nicks had great success early in his Giants career, but fizzled out leading the team to let him leave in free agency. After being unable to recreate any of his early success in Indianapolis, and after being cut this preseason by the Tennessee Titans, it looked as if Nicks’ NFL career may be over, so this is a huge opportunity for the former Giants wide receiver.

If Nicks can once again find a rapport with Eli Manning, this could turn into a great redemption story. Or Nicks could just pick up a couple more pay checks while playing out the string on a mediocre Giants team. You know, one or the other.

About Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan has covered the NFL for almost a decade and is a host and producer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio flagship 620WDAE/95.3FM. Pat covers the NFC South and NFC East for Football Insiders. Follow him on Twitter, @PatDonovanNFL.