The Baltimore Ravens signed linebacker Daryl Smith on Wednesday, officially marking the end of Smith's career with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team originally drafted Smith in the second-round of the 2004 NFL Draft out of Georgia Tech with the expectations of him being a long-term solution at one of the outside linebacker positions, and they hit it out of the park.
Smith was the opening day starter Week 1 in 2004 against the Buffalo Bills and never looked back. He started 13 games his rookie season, missing a few due to injury, but established himself as a productive starter and potential playmaker even as a rookie. He finished his 2004 season with 44 tackles, two sacks, and an interception.
His lone interception that season is when I knew Smith was going to be a long-term fixture for the Jaguars. Smith was lined up at his weak side linebacker position and dropped into zone coverage against then Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who tried to fit a pass over Smith's head and under the defensive back in coverage, a throw Manning has made his entire career and made look easy.
That throw that day wasn't easy however, as Daryl Smith leapt with an outstretched arm and tipped the ball in the air as it went over his head, falling flat on his back and catching the football for an interception. It was one of those "WOW!" plays you see defenders make, that look like they shouldn't be able to make them.
Smith, or "Buck" as he was called by teammates and coaches often, was never a flashy linebacker like that of Ray Lewis or Kevin Hardy, but he was a grinder. He was that blue collar guy who you could always rely on. Smith ends his Jaguars career with 126 games and a team record 1,096 tackles. He's tied for seventh in team history with 21.5 sacks, as a linebacker who rarely blitzed the quarterback, and second in team history in pass deflections.
I think it's safe to say that Smith is arguably the best defensive player the Jaguars have ever had and the best linebacker the team has ever had.
What was your favorite Daryl Smith play?