The Bengals have apparently devoted the month of April to trying upgrade the pass rush in any fashion.
Less than three weeks before a draft they are expected to take at least two edge rushers from among their 11 selections, they swung a deal Tuesday when they sent a 2018 conditional draft selection to Jacksonville for a late fifth-round pick who has played just 19 games over three seasons in defensive end Chris Smith. The 6-1, 266-pound Smith appears to be a pure speed rusher who plays on passing downs on the edge and maybe down inside as well.
The deal comes a day shy of five years to their last non-draft day trade, when they shipped linebacker Keith Rivers to the Super Bowl champion Giants for the last pick in the fifth round that two weeks later turned out to be starting safety George Iloka. The last trade of any kind came in the 2014 draft when they traded up to get center Russell Bodine in the fourth round.
A conditional draft pick, usually a seventh-rounder, is typically determined by how many games the player is active.
This trade has absolutely no impact on the April 27-29 draft and Smith, the overall 159th pick in 2014 out of Arkansas, is going to be immersed in a terrific roster battle featuring the unknown newcomers as well as proven veteran Wallace Gilberry and highly-regarded 2015 fourth-round pick Marcus Hardison.
Hardison has yet to play an NFL snap, but Smith is also looking for work after getting just 66 plays for the Jaguars last season in the seven games he was active despite showing flashes of production with three sacks in his rookie year in just 91 snaps. According to profootballfocus.com Smith has 312 snaps to go with 4.5 career sacks while averaging 16 plays per game. He missed about a month last season after he got poked in the eye.
Although Smith had a hard time getting on the field in Jacksonville, the Bengals like his speed and wanted to see what he could do up close after rating him a late fourth-rounder when he was coming out of Fayetteville. Before the Bengals played the Jags last preseason, Smith had the most snaps of anyone on defense and had impressed head coach Gus Bradley by also playing nickel inside for basically the first time. But Smith ended up playing just 16 snaps in Jacksonville's 26-21 win in which he had one of the four second-half sacks against the Bengals' back-up offensive line.
Smith, a Salisbury, N.C., native who went to high school in Mount Ulla, N.C., has terrific speed. His best 40-yard dash before he was drafted was 4.56 seconds and he impressed with a 4.71-second run at the 2014 scouting combine. That's where he also added a nice dash of strength lifting 28 reps of 225 pounds.