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The Raiders defensive line is now loaded with veteran talent. Antonio Smith joined the group on Friday afternoon, signing a two-year contract reportedly worth $9 million.
Smith joins defensive ends Justin Tuck and Lamarr Woodley – those two signed Thursday -- on a vastly upgraded defensive front. The Raiders struggled to generate pressure with a four-man rush, often relying on Lamarr Houston to do it all.
Smith is excited to join the Tuck and Woodley up front.
“There is a commitment to get better, there is a commitment to try and make this defense a great defense,” Smith said in transcript released by the team. “Both those guys are guys that I’ve watched over the years, especially Tuck, I’ve always kept my eye on him. I think he does a lot of the same things I do. I’m excited to be able to rush with him and work with him.”
Now the Raiders have threats inside and out. The trio combined for 21 sacks last season. Last year’s starting four-man front had just 14. That’s important for a defense that relies heavily on pressure without blitzing.
Smith played defensive end the past five seasons in Houston’s 3-4 defensive alignment. He’s expected to play tackle in the Raiders’ 4-3 front and provide an interior pass rush they didn’t have last year. Smith is particularly effective in the nickel and dime packages as a pass rusher.
Smith had 22 tackles, five sacks and a force fumble last season. He has 18.5 sacks over the past three seasons, and hopes to produce at a similar clip with the Raiders in 2014. That’s possible because Smith’s production is as steady as his participation. He has missed just one game in eight seasons.
“I’m really excited. I really like what’s going on here,” Smith said. “I like the new add-ons and I’m ready to get after the passer.”