So why did 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith swap out a potentially fully-guaranteed $9.754 million salary in 2015 for a package of non-guaranteed roster bonuses and other payments that total a maximum of $9.754 million?
The simple answer is that’s the best deal he was going to get, anywhere.
Smith’s agent, Doug Hendrickson, told Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com earlier this week that the 49ers didn’t say, ‘”If you don’t do this, you’re cut.'” The 49ers apparently didn’t need to verbalize their intentions.
Per a league source, the 49ers would have released Smith in lieu of allowing his fifth-year base salary to become fully guaranteed. According to the source, Smith wasn’t going to get on the open market a contract similar to the revised deal he signed.
It’s not even a true $9.754 million base deal. Of that amount, $2 million is tied to incentives, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com. To get the full $9.754 million, Smith must participate in at least half the defensive snaps this year or notch at least eight sacks.
Smith gets $200,000 per month, from April 1 through May 1, if he’s still on the roster. As of August 1, that number moves to $300,000. His base salary is $1 million, and he’s eligible for a $500,000 workout bonus.
Smith also gets $322,150 for each game on the 53-man roster, for a total possible per-game roster bonus of $5.154 million.
The total is $7.754 million, with the incentives pushing the deal to $9.754 million. If the incentives fall under the category of “not likely to be earned,” the deal actually creates $2 million in 2015 cap space for the 49ers.
The fact that the 49ers would have cut Smith but for the revised deal indicates that the team still has concerns about his ability to stay out of trouble and/or in compliance with all league policies over the long haul. If he manages to do so this year, he’ll get the full $9.754 million — and he’ll set himself up for a long-term deal with the team.
If Smith fails, more and more folks will point out that the 49ers took Smith in 2011 with J.J. Watt still on the board.