Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
At least a few people were surprised last weekend when Detroit included defensive lineman Shaun Smith in its final round of roster cuts. It seemed, after all, that Smith was on track to claim a starting job opposite Grady Jackson and give the Lions a pair of 320-ish pound defensive tackles to shore up their run defense.
Here’s an interesting twist, if not an explanation: The NFL has suspended Smith four games for violating its anabolic steroids policy, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Smith won’t be available to play until Week 5, at which point the Lions or any other team could sign him. According to the report, Smith took a “water pill,” which can be used to lose weight but are illegal under NFL rules because they can also mask steroid use.
The Lions wouldn’t have had to pay Smith during the suspension, nor would they have had to use a roster spot on him. (Suspended players go on the reserve/suspended list.) So there really wasn’t an incentive to release Smith if they knew the suspension was looming.
So to me, the suspension doesn’t seem to be the primary reason the Lions released him. If they envisioned a future with him, they could have stashed him on the reserve/suspended list and activated him in Week 5. They must not have been convinced he was worth the wait.