Former 49ers/Bengals defensive end Justin Smith announced his retirement last May, but rumors are circulating at the combine that Smith would like to play again, a source tells Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. However, Smith would not want to return to San Francisco, adds Florio.
While Smith may not want to return to the Bay Area, the 49ers would still hold his rights in the even that he came out of retirement, as Florio notes. Smith had one year left on his deal at a cap charge of nearly $6.5MM, and that contract has tolled, meaning San Francisco would control Smith for one more season. Smith could presumably be traded, but as Florio adds, its tough to imagine another club giving up much of value for a 36-year-old lineman who has spent a year away from the NFL. Of course, the 49ers could also choose to release Smith, but they’d have little incentive to do so.
Even in his final NFL season, Smith was still a dominant force, racking up five sacks and grading as the league’s No. 11 3-4 defensive end among 47 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. He was just one of several San Francisco players to hang up his cleats after the 2014 campaign, including linebackers Chris Borland and Patrick Willis, and right tackle Anthony Davis (who is also said to be mulling a return to the NFL). Head coach Jim Harbaugh also notably left the NFL for the University of Michigan; his replacement, Jim Tomsula, has since been fired and replaced by Chip Kelly.
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