You take the risk and the headache and the crapola and the TSA agents and the shrapnel and the complete unknown and throw caution to the wind. Because right now, the wind has a better career record against Manning than you do.
For fun, picture Justin Houston snorting on one side of the formation and Smith getting ready to crash the other. Or Smith lined up to Tamba Hali, and you’re the tackle who has to pick his poison. Or Smith lined up next to Houston, a double barrel of badass off one nuclear edge.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ pass rush of present is straight poison. A Chiefs pass rush with Smith would be banned in 27 states.
In a salary cap world, there are needs and there are wants. The Chiefs don’t need another edge rusher; they’ve got one of the best in the game right now in Houston, the NFL’s Captain Overlooked, plus a damn good running mate in Hali, still frisky at 31. Dee Ford remains slotted as depth, the first man up should one of the good men in front of him go down. But since when was there such a thing as too many ways to mess with a quarterback’s head — let alone his timing?
All-Pro pass rushers who have yet to turn 26 don’t land on the street too often. And assuming the legal mountains aren’t too steep, those rushers don’t usually stay on the street for very long.
Reservations are understandable; there’s a good chance Smith might have to sit out most, if not all, of 2015 serving another round of disciplinary league penance. With three reported incidents on his record in the past 23 months, the former University of Missouri standout zipped from “knucklehead” to “self-destructive” in the time it took the Millennium Falcon to make the jump to lightspeed. The latest blight was an arrest in Santa Clara, Calif., in which Smith was charged with the triple crown of a hit-and-run, a DUI and vandalism — the straw that last Friday broke the back of his contract in San Francisco.
Since 2012, the outside linebacker has been cited for:
--DUI (January 2012)
--Felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon (June 2012)
--DUI (September 2013)
--Possession of marijuana (also September 2013)
--False report of a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport (April 2014)
So, yeah, recent history says Aldon Smith is a walking detonator. But for the Chiefs and the division chase, the clock is already ticking.
Smith did his prep damage in Raytown, Mo., just a few miles from Arrowhead Stadium. Bonus: OverTheCap.com early Tuesday morning projected the Chiefs as having roughly $9.1 million worth of salary space to play with, almost twice Smith’s old 2015 cap number ($4.85 million). There’s room. Room and risk. Rehab wiped out five games from Smith’s 2013 ledger; violations of the NFL’s personal conduct and substance abuse policies cost him nine contests last fall.
And yet his peers still taped Smith as the 33rd-best player in the NFL going into 2014, and the seventh-best going into 2013. Smith notched 30 sacks in only 27 games — the fastest anybody in league history cracked the 30 barrier — and 44 takedowns in just 50 appearances. Imagine what that five-cent head could do if it ever got screwed on straight.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter at @SeanKeeler or email him at email@example.com