The 49ers’ decision to do what should have been expected all along –- exercise the fifth-year option on outside linebacker Aldon Smith -– should not change how the organization plans for the future.
Smith is currently scheduled to make $9.754 million for the 2015 season. But the money does not become guaranteed until March 2015. And a lot can happen between now and then.
There was no question the 49ers would pick up that option. Then, Smith was arrested on a possible felony for making a false report of a bomb threat at Los Angeles International Airport, and suddenly there was some doubt.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office referred the case to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office for misdemeanor consideration. The City Attorney has requested more information before deciding whether to charge Smith at all.
Smith told 49ers officials he never said the word “bomb” to a TSA agent, a source told CSNBayArea.com. That contradicts what an LAX sergeant told CSNBayArea.com on April 13, the day the incident occurred.
Smith faces a possible suspension from the NFL for potential violations of the league’s policies on personal conduct and substance abuse. He took a voluntary leave of absence last season to seek treatment for substance abuse.
Just because the 49ers now officially control Smith’s rights through the 2015 season, it still does not change much. The club knows they can support Smith without fully relying on him. That’s why the 49ers still must view outside linebacker as a position they can look to bolster in next week’s draft.
The 49ers compensated for Smith’s absence last season with a combination of Dan Skuta playing base downs and Corey Lemonier entering at defensive end in pass-rush situations. The 49ers went 5-0 without Smith, but Skuta and Lemonier combined for just one sack in 570 defensive snaps. Smith collected 8.5 sacks while playing 574 snaps in the regular season.
If the 49ers have an opportunity to add a promising outside linebacker in the draft, nothing should prevent them from seeking a little more insurance.