The Buffalo Bills announced they were releasing linebacker Andre Smith on Monday, October 18, just as he was about to return from serving a six-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. The cut came as surprise not just for fans and analysts, but for Smith, as well.
The 25-year-old had posted a video on Twitter celebrating his return. He captioned the highlight reel, “First Day Out ‼️🔓,” at around 5:06 a.m. ET. However, later in the day, the Bills announced his release.
However, the very next day, the disgruntled defender visited with the Bills’ AFC East division rival, New York Jets. On Tuesday, October 18, The Score’s Jordan Schultz tweeted that “Smith had a good workout with the team.” While Schultz initially reported Smith was signing with the Jets, the NFL Insider apologized two hours later “for the confusion.”
Smith, who was originally selected by the Carolina Panthers in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft, was traded to the Bills in 2020 for a conditional 2023 seventh-round pick. He appeared in 12 games during the 2020 NFL season, recording seven tackles and one tackle for a loss, while on special teams, he forced a fumble and recorded two tackles.
In 2021, the Bills re-signed Smith to a two-year, $2.4 million contract. The 6-foot, 200-pound linebacker appeared in 15 games during the 2022 NFL season, where he tallied four solo tackles along with six assisted tackles and one recovered forced fumble, per Pro Football Reference.
Smith Shared a Cryptic Goodbye Tweet Before the Bills Officially Announced His Release
Approximately a half-hour before the Bills PR account tweeted out the news, Smith posted a cryptic message saying goodbye. He tweeted at 2:03 p.m., “Every dawg has its day ✌🏾 it’s been real.”
While it’s not exactly clear why the Bills cut ties with Smith just when he was set to return, Spectrums New 1 Buffalo reporter Jon Scott tweeted that he was simply no longer needed in Buffalo, as his release did not clear up a roster spot. “Not clearing anything as he’s been on reserve/suspended list and not taking roster spot. Because of that, keep him there in case injuries pile up at LB and need him once suspension over. They don’t, so he’s released.”
Smith previously denied the validity of his suspension and claimed that he never took performing enhancing drugs He tweeted on June 1, “The recent turn of events have been very unfortunate. I have been appealing since November to prove my innocence. I do not agree with the decision that was made and I have never and will never take PED.”
Despite the suspension, Smith, who had primarily carved out a niche role on special teams, was able to participate in preseason games with the Bills. Upon landing in the Meadowlands, Smith could possibly impart some insider Buffalo knowledge to his new team.
The Jets (4-2), led by quarterback Zach Wilson, wouldn’t be a terrible landing spot for Smith, as they currently sit in second place in the AFC East behind the Bills (5-1).
The Bills Cleared Nearly $1.1 Million in Cap Space By Releasing Smith
As Spotrac.com previously reported, “If Buffalo decides to part ways with Smith amid the suspension, they “can free up $1.1M of cap space.” And while that doesn’t sound like much, it’s the exact amount of money needed to possibly add Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey.
The 26-year-old All-Pro, who signed a four-year, $64 million contract with the Panthers in 2020, is only owed $1.035 million for the 2022 NFL season, and with Smith gone, the Bills cleared an easy path to successfully trade for McCaffrey before the deadline.
USA Today‘s Nate Davis wrote on Monday that if the Bills were to acquire McCaffrey, “It’s the nightmare scenario for the rest of the league.” While Buffalo has the No. 1 offense, they rank No. 17 in rushing. However, Fox Sports senior writer Peter Schrager announced, “[Carolina] will listen if offers include multiple 1st-round picks,” a steep ask for a player who only appeared in 10 games between 2020 and 2021 due to injuries. But it’s a risk Buffalo may be willing to take.
Throughout the first five games of the 2022 NFL season, McCaffrey has recorded 324 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns along with 188 receiving yards and a touchdown reception. Against the Rams in Week 6, he added another 13 rushes for 69 yards along with seven receptions for 89 yards.