Ex-NFL player Chris Smith dead at 31: 'Rest in paradise'

Cleveland Browns defensive end Chris Smith walks off of the field after the Lions game on Aug. 30, 2018, at Ford Field in Detroit. (Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Chris Smith, a former NFL defensive end who played for several teams over the course of his eight-year career, has died, according to an obituary in a North Carolina newspaper. He was 31.

The circumstances around Smith’s death were not immediately known.

West Rowan High School in North Carolina and Smith’s former Cleveland Browns teammate David Njoku were among those who sent their condolences on social media.

"Rest in Peace to a West Rowan Legend! Chris was a better person than he was player! The impact he had on those around him will be remembered forever!" the high school’s football Twitter account wrote.

Njoku added: "Rest in paradise Chris Smith. Hometown hero and a brother to everyone. Such a kind soul. This is Heartbreaking."

The Salisbury Post remembered Smith as the "ultimate give-back guy" who donated his time and money to local schools and projects.


Smith was a fifth-round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014 after a standout career at Arkansas. He played in three seasons with the Jaguars before he joined the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017.


Drew Brees of the Saints is pursued by Chris Smith of the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Dec. 27, 2015, in New Orleans. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

After one season with the Bengals, he played two with the Browns and then with the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020 and the Houston Texans in 2021. 

In 72 career NFL games, he had 80 tackles and 11 sacks.

He had signed a contract with the Seattle Sea Dragons of the XFL and appeared in four games for them this year.


Chris Smith of the Browns prior to a game against the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 24, 2019, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. (Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

The New York Post noted that Smith’s girlfriend and mother of one of his three children was killed when she was struck by a passing car in 2019.

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