Antonio Smith's Late '08 Emergence Earns Him Some Coin
Will the Texans be the latest to fall prey to this circumstantial inflation?
It's possible, as they've inked ex-Cardinals defensive end Antonio Smith to a five-year, $35 million deal to occupy the bookend spot on the line opposite of Mario Williams. The deal includes $12.5 million in guarantees.
Smith was unheralded entering 2008, but the 2004 fifth-rounder turned it on late in the year, recording 12 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in the team's final three regular season games. Smith increased his price tag in the playoffs with eight tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble in the Cards' four-game run to the Super Bowl.
That being said, I think the Texans will look okay with this signing. Smith's emergence at the end of the regular season was not a part of the Cardinals' overall improvement -- remember, they ended the regular season in need of a life vest, and Smith's performances were one of the few saving graces for a defense that got blown up down the stretch. Only in the playoffs did the entire unit turn it on, at which point Smith was already humming.
At 27, Smith just seems to me like a late bloomer, a project out of Oklahoma St. who started finding his way in the NFL. If that's indeed the case, the Texans got a very good pass rusher at a nice price (especially as the market on premium defensive ends balloons in the coming seasons), and beyond the isolated impact that Smith will have, he will draw attention away from Williams. Adding a defensive end of his caliber doesn't occur in a vacuum; it benefits everyone, including the plague that is the Texans secondary.
Houston made it clear that it was interested in Smith from the beginning of free agency (with rumors flying beforehand). Now that the Texas have him, the only thing that remains to be seen is if buyer's remorse is to follow.