Could linebacker Aldon Smith help the Falcons’ pass rush? Pending significant issues off the field, absolutely. Could Ray Rice help a team that currently is thin at running back? Probably.
But the team has no interest in Rice and is not considering making a move for Smith — at least not at the moment.
I asked Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff about both players on Monday. Rice has been without a team since Baltimore released him in September while he was serving a suspension for domestic violence. The Falcons lack a clear No. 1 runner and are thin in the backfield, with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman out with hamstring injuries. But Dimitroff said: “We do not (have interest in Rice). … We’re happy with the development of our young guys at running back and we think our chemistry is right with this running back group.”
The situation with Smith isn’t as clear. He was one of the game’s premier pass rushers for San Francisco, accumulating 33½ sacks in his first two NFL seasons (2011-12) and getting 8.5 in 11 games in 2013. But off the field, he has been a train wreck. He has been arrested five times, including multiple DUI cases, weapons charges and most recently a hit-and-run and another DUI (which led to the 49ers finally releasing him).
Smith appears to be struggling with addiction issues, which would account for much of his knucklehead tendencies. He missed five games in 2013 following a DUI arrest and spent time in a treatment facility. He was suspended another nine games last year for violating the NFL’s personal conduct and substance abuse policy. It’s likely he will be suspended again, perhaps for the season. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him re-enter a treatment facility.
Dimitroff didn’t completely close the door to having interest in Smith in the future. But he said it’s a non-issue right now, which is the safest position to take.
“At this moment, we do not have an interest in Aldon,” Dimitroff said. “Is he a talented player? There’s no question about it. He obviously has some stuff that he needs to take care of and our focus is on the team. We’re encouraged by where we are with our pass rush.”
Falcons coach Dan Quinn, who saw Smith twice a year when Quinn coached in Seattle, echoed Dimitroff’s comments: “I don’t know all the details and where it goes with the league. I have a lot of respect for him as a player but he has a lot of stuff going on.”
There is a chance Smith won’t be playing for anybody this season.