Raiders Sign LB Jaylon Smith Off Saints’ Practice Squad

The Raiders have made their first roster move under interim general manager Champ Kelly. Veteran linebacker Jaylon Smith has joined Vegas by signing off the Saints’ practice squad, his agency announced.

Smith worked out with the Raiders this summer, but he joined New Orleans in time for the preseason. The 28-year-old impressed during his exhibition performances, though it quickly became clear a special teams role would represent his best path to playing time. Smith was part of the Saints’ final roster cuts; to no surprise, however, he was immediately signed to the team’s taxi squad.

In spite of that, he has yet to see any game action in 2023. Today’s decision to head to Vegas will give Smith a better chance to be active on gamedays, and it will be interesting to see what kind of a role he can carve out under interim head coach Antonio Pierce. The latter will have a number of lineup decisions to make – aside from the move to bench quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to clear a path for rookie Aidan O’Connell to take over – with respect to a defense which has struggled in a number of categories, particularly against the run.

Vegas – led at the LB spot by Robert Spillane and Divine Deablo – has surrendered an average of 141 yards per game on the ground this season, and Smith will look to aid in that department. It remains to be seen how effective his efforts on that front will be, however. The former second-rounder has yet to make much of a statistical impact (or find a permanent home) since his Cowboys tenure came to an end. Smith has bounced around to the Giants, Packers and Saints since he was released by Dallas midseason in 2021.

The two-time Pro Bowler recorded at least 121 tackles every year between 2018 and ’20, adding eight sacks during that span. Smith saw a notable drop in playing time the following season, though he served in a starting capacity with the Giants in 2022. While logging a 72% snap share, he posted 88 tackles but drew the second-worst PFF grade (56) of his career. Improving on that mark with the Raiders, presuming he sees the field in some capacity, will no doubt help his free agent stock come March.

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