49ers Exercise Option On Aldon Smith

The 49ers announced (via Twitter) that they have exercised the fifth-year option on Aldon Smith. The deadline for exercising the fifth-year options on players in the 2011 draft is tonight but San Francisco won’t take this one to the wire. As shown in PFR’s fifth-year option tracker, Smith will earn $9.754MM in 2015 – the same salary that he would have earned with the 2014 transition tag.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals

Of course, there was a great deal of debate both within the 49ers’ front office and from observers on the outside over whether the option should have been exercised. Last month, Smith was detained at Los Angeles International Airport following an incident where he allegedly falsely indicated that he possessed a bomb. The incident was especially disturbing since it wasn’t Smith’s first off-the-field issue. The 24-year-old missed five games last season while spending time in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.

The 49ers hoped to know the results of Smith’s legal issues before this deadline but the hearing continuance made it impossible, tweets Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. Smith met with 49ers GM Trent Baalke earlier today and informed the rest of the front office that the pow-wow went well, according to Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News (on Twitter). It’s conceivable that Baalke & Co. might have turned down the option if the meeting Smith did not go well, but that’s only speculation at this point.

Baalke may have tipped his hand last week when he told reporters that he hoped Smith would be with the team in “2016 and 2017 and 2018.” While Smith’s troubles have certainly given the SF front office pause, the talent of the outside linebacker was obviously too strong for the team to part with. In 2012, Smith made his debut as a starter and racked up 19.5 sacks and 49 tackles. Last season, in eleven games (eight starts), Smith registered 34 tackles and 8.5 sacks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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