The Buffalo Bills announced that they have signed former Oakland Raiders tight end Lee Smith to a three-year contract.
It is no secret that the Raiders have ushered in some significant changes to their roster this offseason. The tight end department had been particularly hit hard with the departure of Jared Cook.
Although Cook served as their most viable option in the passing game last season, he was not very involved in the run game as a blocker since that honor instead went to Smith. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case after the Raiders cut him last week.
In an interesting twist, Smith’s career has now essentially come full circle. Although he was initially selected in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots, he had actually made his professional regular season debut with the Bills.
Smith struggled to etch out a consistent role in Buffalo as he often found himself slotted behind the other tight ends during his four years with the team. Fortunately, he was able to maintain his spot on the roster thanks to his blocking prowess in the run game.
The former Marshall product eventually signed a three-year deal with Oakland prior to the 2015 NFL season. Although he made his bones in the NFL as a bonafide run-blocker, he was never able to establish himself as a viable option in the passing game thus far after recording just 56 catches for 392 yards and seven touchdowns in 107 career games.
Fortunately, that does not seem to be what the Bills have in mind for his second stint with the team after making some significant changes of their own in recent years. Buffalo is likely hoping his experience can serve as a stabilizing factor for this young group after they made quite the investment in the tight end position this offseason both through the draft and free agency.
Lee’s departure only raises further questions about the state of Oakland’s tight end personnel moving forward in the 2019 NFL season. At this point, it appears they will be relying heavily on Derek Carrier, Darren Waller, and Luke Willson to serve as legitimate replacements for what had been an effective tight end duo last year.
They also drafted tight end Foster Moreau out of LSU, so the competition for the starting job should be one to look out for during training camp this year.