Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Veteran safety Smith joins Lions' secondary on 2-year deal
By Len Pasquarelli
Seven-year veteran safety Dwight Smith, released by the Minnesota Vikings last week, on Wednesday found a new home in the division, reaching agreement with the Detroit Lions on a two-year, $5 million contract.
The deal reunites Smith with Lions' head coach Rod Marinelli and defensive coordinator Joe Barry, both of whom were assistants on the Tampa Bay staff when the veteran safety spent the first four seasons of his NFL career as a standout Bucs' defender.
Smith, 27, will add big-play instincts and aggressiveness to the interior of the Detroit secondary.
The Lions will represent the fourth different franchise for which Smith has played, and his fourth different club in five seasons, but there is no denying he remains a top-flight talent with unique "ball" skills. He appeared in 14 games for the Vikings in 2007, with 13 starts, and had 51 tackles, four interceptions and nine passes defensed, teaming with Darren Sharper to comprise one of the NFC's best safety tandems.
But Smith had some off-field problems during his two seasons in Minnesota, including a pair of arrests, and at times he disagreed with the philosophies of coach Brad Childress and with the club's defensive schemes.
Blessed with some of the best hands of any defensive back in the league, and with terrific closing speed, especially on passes thrown in front of him, the feisty Smith still retains excellent cover skills and figures to fit well into the Tampa-2 style the Lions employ.
The former Akron standout, a third-round choice of the Bucs in the 2001 draft, began his NFL career as a nickel cornerback before moving to safety after his first three seasons in the league. In stints with the Bucs (2001-2004), New Orleans (2005) and Minnesota (2006-2007), he had appeared in 107 games and started 76 of them.
Smith has 432 tackles, 22 interceptions, 57 passes defensed, 10 forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries for his career.
In Tampa Bay's victory over the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII, Smith had two interceptions and returned both of them for touchdowns.
The contract to which Smith agreed Wednesday includes a $350,000 signing bonus and base salaries of $1.35 million for 2008 and $2.25 million for 2009. There are reporting bonuses of $300,000 for this season and $250,000 for next, and a roster bonus of $500,000 in 2009.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.