For most of this offseason, defensive end has been viewed as a position badly needing to be addressed by Cincinnati, whether it be in free agency or the NFL Draft.
However, the major waves of free agency have already passed, and the draft is still more than a week away, yet the Bengals still recently managed to get help at this position in the form of Chris Smith.
After sending a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to the Jaguars, Smith arrived in Cincinnati late last week in hopes of helping the pass rush and earning a roster spot. Even though Smith has been in the league for three years, getting traded to the Bengals felt to him like he was being drafted all over again, as Smith told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
“It kind of felt like being drafted all over again,” Smith said. “It went viral before I hung up the phone. It was crazy. I’m just glad to be a part of this. There’s a good thing going here, a playoff team. It’s great, man.”
The former fourth-round pick out of Arkansas rarely saw the field while in Jacksonville, so much that he would have been squarely on the roster bubble heading into next season.
“Jacksonville, as far as the people, they were great, but it was one of those where I couldn’t really get on the field like I wanted to and display what I do,” Smith said. “I just thank God for this opportunity and just having a fresh, new start.”
With the Bengals, Smith not only has a great chance to keep his roster spot in 2017, but he could also earn a significant role next season for a team in desperate need of more pass-rushers.
As of now, Smith will be battling the likes of Wallace Gilberry and Will Clarke for one of the backup defensive end spots behind Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap. Even Johnson has shown his starting spot could be up for grabs with his degrading play, so Smith has a golden opportunity for playing time ahead of him.
But it’s still going to be an uphill climb for Smith just to make the roster, assuming the Bengals spend a high pick on a defensive end in next week’s draft. There probably will be multiple pass-rushers drafted by Cincinnati, and Smith has just 4.5 career sacks to his name.
One thing is for sure, Smith is going to have to act and work like a rookie who’s earned nothing just to win a job this season. It’s a good thing he sounds like he’s already taking that approach.