Antonio Smith was released by the Raiders recently, a move that saved the Raiders 4 million in cash and cap space, after Smith had a down season in his first season in Oakland, grading out below average for the first time since 2010. The Broncos are signing him for half of that on this 1-year, 2 million dollar deal and he has a good chance to bounce back in Denver, reuniting with former Houston head coach Gary Kubiak and, more importantly, former Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
In Denver, Smith will move from defensive tackle back to a more natural position for him at 3-4 defensive end and play in a rotation with Malik Jackson, Derek Wolfe, and Vance Walker. Smith still got great pass rush at defensive tackle for the Raiders last season, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd ranked defensive tackle in terms of pass rush grade, but he graded out dead last overall, which is why he overall graded out below average. Coincidentally enough, 2010, the last time Smith graded out below average before last season, was also the last time that Smith played without Wade Phillips and played in a 4-3, so a return to Phillips’ 3-4 should be good for him.
In 2011, 2012, and 2013, Smith graded out 6th, 5th, and 18th among 3-4 defensive ends, including 2nd, 2nd, and 5th in pure pass rush grade. He hasn’t graded out above average against the run since 2007, back when he played 4-3 defensive end, and he’ll see the vast majority of his snaps in Denver in obvious passing situations, but he should still be an asset for them. The one concern is he’s going into his age 34 season, especially concerning when coupled with his play last season, but he’s going guaranteed 500K and he could still have one last solid season left in him in the right role in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense.