The 49ers have until May 3 to decide whether to extend the contract of linebacker Aldon Smith from four years to five. In the wake of his latest off-field incident, we reported that the 49ers haven’t made a decision on whether to pick up the option.
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News reports that the team is “very unlikely” to extend the deal.
Kawakami also believes that Smith “probably” won’t play for the 49ers in 2014. The mechanism for Smith’s unavailability is unclear. He could be suspended by the league under multiple policies and/or he could be placed on the non-football injury/illness list by the team if he has had a relapse of his alcohol issues.
The decision not to exercise the option reinforces the notion that the 49ers may indeed be done with Smith, at least for now. Exercising the option would guarantee his 2015 salary of $9.75 million for injury only. As of next March, it would be fully guaranteed.
For now, Smith’s 2014 salary also is guaranteed. A suspension would wipe out the guarantee, however. Likewise, if the 49ers were to place Smith on the NFI list, they wouldn’t have to pay him.
The risk of owing him $9.75 million in 2015 remains small. Which would make a decision not to pick up the option confusing. If the 49ers are done with Smith, why not trade him? He’d be more attractive in trade if his new team would control his rights for two years.
Regardless of how the situation plays out, the 49ers clearly are exploring their options. And those options include Smith never suiting up for the 49ers again.