McCann is keen to use the Tigers’ training camp in Edinburgh to change the dressing room culture after a dismal end to last season, and he sees the Redcar-born 29-year-old as a key part of that.
Smallwood joins on a free transfer after his release by Blackburn Rovers.
“He’ll be a great addition to the group,” said McCann. “He will put his foot in, challenge for every ball and compete for everything on the pitch. He’s a winner, a warrior and a real leader.
“I’m sure our fans will love his endeavour, commitment and passion and I’m certain he will make a significant impact on the team this season.
“We’ve got some good young players at this club and they will also benefit massively from Richie’s experience, along with his footballing knowledge and know-how.”
Hull lost captain Eric Lichaj and vice-captain Jackson Irvine in June when they were unable to agree new contracts.
Smallwood began his career at Middlesbrough, captaining the reserves on his way up through the system, and scored Rotherham’s winning goal in the 2014 League One play-off final shoot-out victory over Leyton Orient, converting the first spot-kick of his professional career.
McCann has already signed Hull-born Lewie Coyle, former Rotherham loanee Josh Emmanuel and Festus Arthur, who has joined from Stockport County. Mallik Wilks’s loan from Barnsley was made permanent at the end of last season.
Hull picked up six points from a possible 60 as they were relegated from the Championship but McCann is determined to come straight back up, even if it needs a culture shift.
“We know we weren’t good enough, it’s as simple as that last season,” he admitted. “We’ve got an opportunity to set targets, set goals, change the culture.
“The message in the camp is can we bounce back? That’s what the boys will hear this week, that is the aim, that is the target.”