It wasn’t too long ago that Telvin Smith looked like the NFL’s next great linebacker. The former Florida State Seminoles star quickly made the Jacksonville Jaguars look smart for spending a Day 3 pick on him in the 2014 NFL draft. Blessed with sideline-to-sideline speed and a knack for making big plays, Smith seemed like the exact cornerstone to build a defense around. Then it all came crashing downhill.
As Tom Coughlin systematically built and dismantled a terrifically talented Jaguars defense, Smith surprisingly walked away from football in 2019. But now, football could be walking away from him after an arrest that only further makes his $44 million contract look like a massive mistake by the Jaguars.
Telvin Smith’s journey from FSU to the Jaguars
The 2014 NFL draft featured Jadeveon Clowney going No. 1 overall. And while first-round linebackers Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr and Dee Ford were can’t-miss prospects, the Jaguars found a superstar much later in the draft. Despite running a blazing 4.52 at the combine, Telvin Smith fell to the fifth round. The former FSU standout should have gone much higher after totaling 90 tackles (9.5 for loss), three interceptions and two touchdowns as a senior.
Ultimately, his 6-foot-3, 218-pound frame caused enough concerns for him to drop all the way to pick No. 144. However, Smith quickly showed the Jaguars made a worthwhile investment. As a rookie, he recorded 104 tackles and two sacks despite starting just nine games. He and veteran Paul Posluszny formed a dynamic linebacker duo. The athletically-limited but incredibly intelligent veteran took the physically gifted Smith under his wing and helped him unleash his Pro Bowl potential.
Jacksonville signed star linebacker to $44 million extension in 2017
By his second season, Smith emerged as a full-time starter for an up-and-coming Jaguars team. He went from playing 63 percent of the defensive snaps as a rookie to 86 percent. As his role continued to increase, he gained a reputation as one of the NFL’s most promising young defenders. Jacksonville appeared to have struck gold with their late-round selection, as Smith annually racked up 100-plus tackles while showing strong coverage skills.
A huge bargain on his rookie deal, Smith cashed in on his dominant early run. In October 2017, the Jaguars locked up their star linebacker on a four-year, $44.4 million deal with a maximum value of $50 million. More importantly, Smith’s massive extension included nearly $15.5 million guaranteed. The contract ensured Smith would be a cornerstone for the Jaguars, who had also recently scored another draft steal in Myles Jack. Jacksonville’s defense featured a number of young stars that could conceivably turn the team from a perennial loser into a title contender. Yet, once the New England Patriots ended their Super Bowl hopes that postseason, the Jaguars and Telvin Smith were never the same.
Smith’s NFL career could be in jeopardy after arrest
Things started to go south for Smith when he strangely elected to sit out the entire 2019 season. ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke the news last spring after the Jaguars reportedly explored trading their star linebacker.
Smith’s absence, along with the Jalen Ramsey trade, played a major role in Jacksonville’s defensive regression. After ranking second and fourth in points allowed in 2017 and 2018, respectively, the Jaguars plummeted to 21st in 2019. Smith gave up $9.75 million last season, as the Jaguars put him on the reserved/retired list. But after getting arrested on Wednesday, football will likely be the last thing on Telvin Smith’s mind. According to ESPN’s Michael DiRocco, the 29-year-old got arrested and charged with one count of unlawful sexual activity.
According to a copy of the arrest warrant obtained by ESPN, Smith is accused of having sex with a 17-year-old girl multiple times, both at his home and in his vehicle, in August and September. The girl told Smith the day they first met that she had recently turned 17 and a witness corroborated that, according to the report.
Based on Florida law, the charge of unlawful sexual activity is a second-degree felony. While the Jaguars acknowledged the report of Smith’s arrest in a team statement, they did not offer any further comment due to the ongoing investigation. With significant legal implications at stake, it’s safe to say football should likely be the last thing on Telvin Smith’s mind. For the Jaguars, his $44 million extension looks more and more like a massive mistake for an organization that has failed to achieve consistent success.