11:09am: After getting out of jail this morning, Smith told KTVU (YouTube link) that “this wasn’t a DUI” and “the truth will come out,” while apologizing to fans. Meanwhile, 49ers CEO Jed York tells Michael Silver (Twitter link) that the team hasn’t yet made any decisions on Smith.
9:58am: 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith has run into more off-field trouble, according to Matt Keller of ABC7 News, who reports (via Twitter) that Smith was arrested and booked by Santa Clara Police last night. The Santa Clara PD confirmed Smith’s arrest, tweeting that he was charged with hit and run, DUI, and vandalism.
Smith, 25, has had his share of legal run-ins in the past, including multiple DUI arrests. The linebacker has missed nearly half the 49ers’ games over the last two seasons after entering a rehabilitation facility in 2013 and serving a nine-game suspension in 2014. Given the nature of his latest violation, Smith may be facing another suspension, either from the team or the league. Repeated arrests cost Ray McDonald his spot on the Niners’ roster last season, so Smith’s spot on the team may also be in jeopardy.
The timing of the incident is unfortunate for the 49ers, whose GM – Trent Baalke – spoke earlier this week about wanting to lock up Smith beyond the 2015 season. Instead, the club may consider parting ways with Smith, since his cap hit wouldn’t be exorbitant. The former seventh overall pick agreed to restructure his contract during the offseason, converting most of his base salary to per-game roster bonuses. Smith can earn up to $9.754MM via bonuses and incentives, but the Niners would only have to eat $1.6MM if they were to release him.
When he’s healthy and on the field, Smith can be one of the league’s most effective pass rushers, as he exhibited during his first two years in the NFL. As a part-time player in his rookie season, Smith recorded 14 sacks, and he piled up another 19.5 in 2012, en route to a spot on the All-Pro first team. However, his off-field issues have limited his production since then.
The 49ers’ defense has already taken several hits this offseason, so Smith’s absence – if he’s cut or suspended – would be the latest blow to the increasingly depleted unit. The club saw cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox depart in free agency, while defensive end Justin Smith and linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland all decided to retire.