The 49ers have one day more to notify linebacker Aldon Smith that they plan to exercise the option that would extend his rookie contract from four years to five.
By all appearances and indications, the 49ers are wrestling with this one. As explained during Thursday’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN, the team genuinely wants to help Smith — even if helping Smith hurts the 49ers.
If the team decides that he needs the wake-up call that comes from not having the $9.75 million option for 2015 exercised, and if that move provides the wake-up call, the 49ers will face a more difficult situation next year, with Smith, Colin Kaepernick, and Michael Crabtree all becoming eligible for free agency at the same time.
For the team, the far better outcome would be for Smith to convince them that he has gotten the message, and that he understands that the 2015 salary is guaranteed for injury only, giving the team the ability to pull the plug between now and next year, if Smith continues to make mistakes and bad decisions off the field.
Ultimately, it could be that the team wants the lingering uncertainty to hammer the point home to Aldon Smith that, this time, he really is down to his last chance.
It’s a smart move, since it would be far better for the 49ers if the man who has racked up 42 sacks in 43 career regular-season games changes his ways without changing teams.