New Raiders cornerback Sean Smith has spent the past three years in the AFC West that’s been dominating by the Broncos and, to a lesser degree, the Chiefs.
Does he foresee a changing of the guard coming?
“Oh, it’s definitely switched,” Smith said Thursday on a conference call. “Clearly.”
Smith agreed to terms with the Raiders early Thursday morning and made his trip to the team’s Alameda headquarters to official sign his deal, reportedly a four-year pact worth $40 million.
“They have a bunch of young talent who is ready to take that next step,” Smith said of the Raiders. “The coaching staff is amazing, you couldn’t ask for a better coaching staff. I just felt like with a few more pieces, this team is ready to contend for real.”
Smith chose the Raiders over the 49ers and a late push from the Chiefs to retain him. Of Kansas City, he said, “It was definitely real tough to leave. No words can explain how much that place has meant to me the past three years.”
But the Pasadena native relished the chance to be closer to home and bought the hard sell from defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson.
“What it really came down to was feeling appreciated and wanted,” Smith said. “Coach Marcus Robinson was over here banging on the table for me to come over here. He expressed how bad they wanted me over here. I just felt that, combined with being back in California, being around my family again and things of that nature, just made the decision easy for me in the end.”
Smith helps create a solid pairing at cornerback with David Amerson, last year’s early season waiver claim pickup from Washington.
Both were rated among the top cornerbacks in the league last year by Pro Football Focus. Amerson, who had a career-year with 26 passes defended and four interceptions, was rated No. 14 and Smith was No. 17. In 2014, PFF rated Smith No. 2 in the league in coverage among cornerbacks and No. 5 at the position.
More help could still be coming to the secondary as Smith is among those making a push for the Raiders to land former Chargers free safety Eric Weddle, a fellow free agent who shares the same representation as Smith.
“I was talking to him before I even came up there,” Smith said. “If we were to add Eric Weddle, this defense will be something special.”
Smith also said he’s looking forward to not having to face Raiders quarterback Derek Carr anymore.
“Carr’s a guy who’s going to go out there, he’s going to sling it,
Smith said. “Regardless of if you think you’re coverage is good or not, he always believes his receivers have a chance of making a play, which he should because Crabtree and Cooper are two amazing receivers on this team. Just knowing I’m on his team now and I don’t have to worry about those Brett Favre-like passes, splitting two defenders to try to get a guy a reception anymore, is going to be great for me.”