Sports Out West

49ers offseason: Can Aldon Smith’s career be salvaged?

Buffalo Bills v San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco 49ers’ general manager Trent Baalke addressed the Aldon Smith situation recently, saying that the team was not ready to give up on the troubled linebacker.

While Baalke is publicly backing Smith, sources have said the 49ers’ CEO Jed York may not have the same view behind closed doors. York apparently does not have much patience left for Smith after what has occurred during his three-year tenure with the team. Smith has been arrested multiple times for incidents stemming from driving under the influence to gun charges to a false bomb report at an airport. He also missed five games last season to enter rehab for substance abuse after his second DUI arrest.

The picture will become clearer within the next week as the 49ers have until May 3rd to exercise a fifth-year, $9.75 million option on Smith’s contract. In the end, despite what Baalke has said, this decision will lie with Jed York.

“The real variable is what Jed wants to do,” said a league source. “If he decides [Smith] lied to him, isn’t committed to sobriety or poses any distraction for his stadium grand opening, he may want to cut bait.”

From the sounds of things, York is concerned about the perception people will have of the 49ers leading into their inaugural season in Levi’s stadium. York is selling a brand as well as running a franchsie, and Smith’s antics are a distraction to the team on and off the field.

The 49ers defense played just as well with Smith out of the lineup as they did with him in it, as the team went 5-0 in his absence and allowed a little over 12 points a game during that stretch. Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier split time in place of Smith, and could do the same in 2014 should the team decide to move on.

Even if a decision is made to give him one more chance, it’s unlikely he can do enough in a year to make the 49ers commit to him long-term should the fifth-year option not be picked up. San Francisco has a number of players that need to be extended in the coming year, and the money saved by letting the troubled Smith go can be used to retain the likes of Colin Kaepernick, Mike Iupati and, possibly Michael Crabtree.

In the end, if York truly has had enough of Smith, it’s hard to blame him. The 49ers were patient with him through multiple issues but, at some point, have to send a message to Smith and others on the team that this type of behavior won’t be tolerated.

Photo: Getty Images

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Al Sacco

Al Sacco is sports expert who knows football, baseball, basketball and hockey. He has spent his time as a sports journalist covering the San Francisco 49ers as a staff writer for 49erswebzone.com and 49ersgab.com. He is also a contributor to Yahoo! Voices and has had his work used on ESPN NFL Insiders.