The Raiders are parting ways with veteran cornerback Sean Smith, a league source said on Monday morning.
The action saves $8.5 million in salary cap space, and occurred just before teams can start negotiating with representatives of pending free agents. Free agency formally opens Wednesday afternoon.
The Raiders had $15.8 million in salary cap space before the move – though Justin Ellis’ new contract will eat into that – according to the NFLPA. The cut creates some wiggle room entering free agency.
Releasing other veterans without guaranteed money can make more room. So can restructuring deals of players they’d prefer to keep.
Smith’s release is no shock. The veteran cornerback made a ton, but the Raiders couldn’t keep him even if they wanted to, due to a legal matter that will reportedly send him to prison.
Smith will plead guilty to felony assault with great bodily injury on Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles Times, relating to a July 4 incident in Pasadena where he beat up his sister’s boyfriend. He will be sentenced to one year in jail and three years probation as part of his plea deal. He was facing felony assault and batter charges, with his trial about to start in earnest.
Smith played well after John Pagano took over as play caller, and was easily the Raiders best cornerback. He’s effective in the right system, and will be roughly 32 years old when eligible to re-enter the NFL market.
The Raiders don’t have many cornerbacks on the roster. Smith and David Amerson were cut, and TJ Carrie’s a few days from free agency. The Silver and Black are expected to sign one, possibly two veteran cornerbacks in free agency, and could re-sign Carrie to a new contract.
The position group has seen great turnover during the Reggie McKenzie era, and the team’s looking for stability surrounding 2017 first-round pick Gareon Conley.