Malcolm Smith

Malcolm Smith Out For Season

The MRI Malcolm Smith underwent after a chest injury Saturday revealed the worst for the seventh-year linebacker. He tore a pectoral muscle and is expected to miss the season, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

The team formally announced that he will be placed on IR. To take his place, former Villanova linebacker Austin Calitro was signed to a two-year deal.

The 49ers signed Smith to a five-year, $26.5MM deal but will now move on to other options at weakside linebacker. Reuben Foster, who has been working with the second-team defense at Smith’s spot, stands to be the highest-profile talent of those vying for next-in-line status in San Francisco.

Both Rapoport and Matt Maiocco from CSNBayArea.com (Twitter links) expect the Alabama linebacker, a player the new-look 49ers brass said they considered at No. 3 overall, to move into that spot alongside NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks.

Smith, who missed just one game during his two-year Oakland stint, led the Raiders in tackles in 2015 and ’16 but was given mediocre grades from Pro Football Focus. The 49ers, who hired former Smith position coach Robert Saleh as DC, nonetheless submitted a lucrative contract offer to the 28-year-old off-ball ‘backer.

Smith is set to make $3.7MM this season and carry a cap number of $4.7MM in 2018. It would cost the 49ers $8.1MM in dead money to release Smith in 2018, so the objective for the team and Smith will be a recovery that puts him on course to contribute next season.

The 49ers also have former Raider Ray-Ray Armstrong and ex-Bronco Dekoda Watson in the fold. Former Seahawks backup Brock Coyle resides behind Bowman at middle linebacker.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Fear Malcolm Smith’s Season In Jeopardy

The 49ers signed Malcolm Smith to a five-year deal this offseason, and the recent Raiders starter entered training camp expected to start at weakside linebacker in San Francisco.

But the veteran off-ball ‘backer suffered a chest injury during practice Saturday the team fears is serious enough to put his season in jeopardy, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com reports. Smith went in for an MRI today, but Kyle Shanahan said the malady could keep Smith sidelined for “a while.”

Smith signed a five-year, $26.5MM deal this offseason. He and new 49ers DC Robert Saleh worked together in Seattle. Maiocco notes this injury could summon first-round pick Reuben Foster into the starting lineup sooner than expected, writing this is likely to bring the Alabama product onto the first unit at weakside ‘backer.

Smith served as the Raiders’ chief presence at off-ball linebacker over the past two seasons. He made more than 100 tackles in each of the past two seasons and missed just one game for Oakland in that span.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

John Lynch Defends Offseason Strategy

John Lynch‘s first offseason as the 49ers general manager may be remembered for the hefty contracts he handed out to a fullback and a former Super Bowl MVP.

John LynchThe organization committed more than $23MM in guaranteed money to fullback Kyle Juszczyk and linebacker Malcolm Smith, leading some pundits to wonder whether agents were looking to take advantage of the new, inexperienced executive. Of course, that sentiment may not be entirely fair, as Lynch has added a number of free agents on favorable deals, including quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, wide receivers/offensive weapons Pierre GarconAldrick Robinson and Marquise Goodwin, tight end Logan Paulsen, linebacker Dekoda Watson, special teamer Don Jones, and kicker Robbie Gould.

Like any GM, Lynch will be forced to answer more questions regarding the “egregious” signings than the shrewd additions. The executive already started addressing his offseason strategy while appearing on San Francisco’s KNBR 680 yesterday. Thanks to CSNBayArea.com, we’re able to pass along some of those quotes below…

On the signings of Juszczyk and Smith:

“We’re proud of those signings. We really are … if you’re sitting there reading everything that people are saying about you and taking it personally, you aren’t gonna be very successful … I think the reason they both got nice contracts is because they were wanted. And we weren’t the only ones that wanted them. In a lot of our situations, we weren’t the highest bidder.”

On whether the two players were enticed by money or the organization:

“Guys came because there’s an exciting vibe here; guys want to be here. None of this means anything until they go play and we go play. But those are two guys we’re very excited to have as part of the 49ers.”

On the team’s negotiations with Juszczyk:

“In that period where the negotiating period started, we were doing some traveling and we got a call and they said, ‘Here’s where it’s at now,’ and we said, ‘Wow,’ because we set in with ‘Hey, to get this guy, we’re gonna have to likely make him the highest paid fullback ever.’ And we were willing to do that…

“But then it kind of got to even another step and we had to all stop and kind of look at each other and go, ‘OK. This is getting real.’ And that’s when we kind of came up the philosophy he’s not just a fullback; he’s an offensive weapon … I’m gonna trust my instincts on what the guy brings, not necessarily what the rest of the market sees him as.

“You can’t go crazy with that, but like I said, we weren’t the only ones interested in this guy … he’s still worth it to us.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

FA Rumors: Charles, Hightower, Cutler, Bills

The latest free agency rumors from around the league:

  • Jamaal Charles will visit the Seahawks next week, a source tells Mike Florio of PFT. The Seahawks’ interest in Charles was first reported on Thursday morning. If he signs with Seattle, he’ll join Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise on the RB depth chart.
  • A Dont’a Hightower/Patriots re-up remains on the table, with Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reporting (on Twitter) the parties remain in good communication about keeping Hightower in New England.
  • The Jetsinterest in Jay Cutler is being reciprocated by the veteran quarterback, Rapoport notes (on Twitter). The Bears released Cutler today after eight seasons.
  • Malcolm Smith will receive a raise from the 49ers after his two years with the Raiders. Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets it’s a five-year, $26.5MM deal for the outside ‘backer, with $13MM guaranteed. This $5.3MM-AAV pact represents quite the bump from his $3.5MM deal in Oakland, one that didn’t come with rave reviews from the advanced metrics community.
  • The Bills remain interested in retaining Lorenzo Alexander, Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News tweets. The sides are continuing to work at completing a deal for the edge defender. Although the Bills are moving to a 4-3 scheme, Alexander — who thrived as a 3-4 outside ‘backer in the form of 12.5 sacks in 2016 — looks to still be part of their plans.
  • It sounds like the Bills and Lions are in the lead for wide receiver Russell Shepard (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler). He could still wind up returning to the Buccaneers.

Sam Robinson contributed to this report.

49ers Expected To Sign Malcolm Smith

The 49ers are expected to sign free agent linebacker Malcolm Smith on Thursday, reports Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link). Peter Schrager of FOX Sports (Twitter link) first reported San Francisco’s interest.Malcolm Smith (Vertical)

A report earlier today indicated the Raiders are unlikely to retain Smith, but San Francisco is the first team that’s been officially linked to the former Super Bowl MVP. Smith, 27, has spent the past two years in Oakland serving as a full-time starter for the first time in his career. During that time, he’s started 30 games and averaged more than 100 tackles per season. Pro Football Focus hasn’t been fond of Smith’s production, however, giving him negative marks for the majority of his career.

The 49ers have been active today, but they’ve mostly added offensive players that won’t have an affect on a defense that ranked 28th in DVOA last season. San Francisco is moving to a Seahawks-esque 4-3 defense under new coordinator Robert Saleh, so Smith would offer both scheme familiarity and versatility, and could conceivably slot in at either outside linebacker spot.

Smith, who ranks as PFR’s No. 12 free agent linebacker, is coming off a two-year pact that paid him $3.5MM annually.

Raiders Unlikely To Keep McGloin, Smith

Linebacker Malcolm Smith, tight end Mychal Rivera, and quarterback Matt McGloin are expected to sign elsewhere this week, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. Right now, the Raiders are prepared to go with Connor Cook as their No. 2 quarterback, though they could conceivably bring in competition for him (Twitter link).

Last week, Raiders coach Jack Del Rio spoke openly about the club possibly installing Cook as the No. 2 QB, but he also did not ruled out acquiring another backup for starter Derek Carr.

I think, for us, we want to develop Connor Cook first as our backup quarterback. He’s the guy we know we have right now,” Del Rio said (via Kyle Meinke of MLive.com). “But there’s always competition in this league, and I wouldn’t close the door there, to say we wouldn’t make it competitive for him.”

“Moxy” McGloin is presently ranked as my No. 8 free agent quarterback. He’s highly unlikely to garner consideration as a starter, but he has had his moments over four years as a reserve in Oakland.

Smith, our No. 12 linebacker remaining on the board, is coming off of a two-year deal which had a $7MM base value and $3.75MM fully guaranteed. After taking on a starting role with the Raiders, he may be in line for a raise. Last year, Smith totaled 103 tackles. In 2015, he had 123 total tackles and a career-high four sacks.

The Raiders’ primary receiving tight end prior to the team elevating Clive Walford, Rivera started 13 games between the 2013 and ’14 seasons. The 2014 season proved to be his best to date, with his second season including 58 receptions, 534 receiving yards and four touchdowns. However, Pro Football Focus consistently scrutinized his work, rating Rivera near the bottom of its tight end hierarchy in both the ’14 and ’15 seasons. The site graded Rivera as its No. 33 tight end in 2016, but he caught just 18 passes, as Walford usurped him on the depth chart.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 2.0: Defense

NFL free agency gets underway on Thursday and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. Here is our updated outlook for each defensive and special teams position.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each defensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.

Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as franchised players aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by defensive position for this offseason:

Edge defender:

  1. Nick Perry
  2. Jabaal Sheard
  3. John Simon
  4. DeMarcus Ware
  5. Lorenzo Alexander
  6. Andre Branch
  7. Julius Peppers
  8. Charles Johnson
  9. Datone Jones
  10. Dwight Freeney
  11. Chris Long
  12. Mario Williams
  13. Paul Kruger
  14. Courtney Upshaw
  15. Jarvis Jones

Now that Chandler Jones, Melvin Ingram, and Jason Pierre-Paul have all been assigned the franchise tag, Nick Perry stands as the top edge defender on the free agent market, and is now in a position to cash in. The Packers opted against the franchise tender for the 26-year-old Perry, so he’ll hit the open market following a career year which saw him post 11 sacks."<strong

The rest of this year’s crop of free agent pass rushers is a blend of young defenders searching for their first payday and veterans on the hunt for one last contract. Among players with youth still on their side, Datone Jones figures to interest clubs thanks to his versatility, as he can vacillate between end and linebacker, while fellow former first-round pick Jarvis Jones is solid against the run. John Simon has been overlooked while playing alongside the likes of J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus but could represent a hidden gem, while the Dolphins are reportedly prioritizing Andre Branch.

After managing nine sacks over the first nine years of his NFL tenure, Lorenzo Alexander busted out with 12.5 quarterback takedowns in 2016, and now could be looking for a double-digit annual salary. Charles Johnson, meanwhile, looks like a good bet to return to the Panthers, but DeMarcus Ware could be something of a wild card — after missing 11 games in the past two seasons, does the 34-year-old have enough left in the tank? The same could be asked of Dwight Freeney, who at age-37 posted three sacks in a rotational role for the Falcons.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Calais Campbell
  2. Johnathan Hankins
  3. Brandon Williams
  4. Dontari Poe
  5. Chris Baker
  6. Bennie Logan
  7. Nick Fairley
  8. Alan Branch
  9. Jared Odrick
  10. Karl Klug
  11. Terrell McClain
  12. Lawrence Guy
  13. Stacy McGee
  14. Stephen Paea
  15. Sylvester Williams
    Honorable mention: Paul Soliai

Calais Campbell is the best overall player among interior defenders, and though he’s entering his age-31 season and may not cost as much as Johnathan Hankins, Brandon Williams, and Dontari Poe, Campbell will still be highly-sought after as he searches for his last substantial payday Campbell’s agent met with the Cardinals last week, but other speculative fits for the veteran defender include the Broncos, Raiders, Ravens, Colts, and Titans."<strong

Hankins is only 24 years old, and though the Giants are trying to retain him along with the rest of their defensive core, the 6’3″, 320-pound mauler should represent an attractive option to a number of clubs this offseason. Williams, too, offers a massive presence on the inside, while Poe could intrigue clubs based on his first-round pedigree and athleticism (though his play hasn’t always matched his potential). The Redskins’ Chris Baker is a solid, well-rounded defensive tackle, and could constitute a consolation prize for teams that miss out on their top targets.

The rest of the class offers an interesting mix of nose tackles (Bennie Logan), interior pass rushers (Nick Fairley, Karl Klug), and run stoppers (Alan Branch), so clubs hoping to bolster their defensive line should find no shortage of options. Jared Odrick recently hit free agency after being released by the Jaguars, while Terrell McClain, Lawrence Guy, and Stacy McGee could be underrated finds for the right team. McClain, for what it’s worth, has already been linked to the Falcons.

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Top 2017 Free Agents By Position: Defense

NFL free agency will get underway on Thursday, March 9th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. After looking at offense, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

[RELATED: Top 2017 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense]

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each defensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.

Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by defensive position for 2017:

Edge defender:

  1. Chandler Jones
  2. Melvin Ingram
  3. Jason Pierre-Paul
  4. Nick Perry
  5. Jabaal Sheard
  6. James Harrison
  7. John Simon
  8. DeMarcus Ware
  9. Lorenzo Alexander
  10. Andre Branch
  11. Julius Peppers
  12. Charles Johnson
  13. Datone Jones
  14. Mario Addison
  15. Dwight Freeney

The Cardinals have already made it abundantly clear that Chandler Jones will see the franchise tag this offseason, and Melvin Ingram and Jason Pierre-Paul are also candidates to be tagged by the Chargers and Giants, respectively. If the latter two are able to hit the open market unfettered, however, they both figure to break the bank. Ingram, Pro Football Focus’ No. 6 edge defender, could be a fit for both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, while JPP will be looking for a long-term commitment after signing consecutive one-year deals.Chandler Jones (vertical)

The rest of this year’s crop of free agent pass rushers is a blend of young defenders searching for their first payday and veterans on the hunt for one last contract. Among the players with youth still on their side, Packers edge defenders Nick Perry and Datone Jones figure to interest different clubs, as Perry is a better match for a 3-4 defense while Jones needs to restart his career as a 4-3 defensive end. John Simon has been overlooked while playing alongside the likes of J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus but could represent a hidden gem, while the Dolphins are reportedly prioritizing Andre Branch.

After managing nine sacks over the first nine years of his NFL tenure, Lorenzo Alexander busted out with 12.5 quarterback takedowns in 2016, and now could be looking for a double-digit annual salary. James Harrison and Charles Johnson, meanwhile, look like good bets to return to Steelers and Panthers, respectively, but DeMarcus Ware could be something of a wild card — after missing 11 games in the past two seasons, does the 34-year-old have enough left in the tank? The same could be asked of Dwight Freeney, who at age-37 posted three sacks in a rotational role for the Falcons.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Kawann Short
  2. Calais Campbell
  3. Johnathan Hankins
  4. Brandon Williams
  5. Dontari Poe
  6. Chris Baker
  7. Bennie Logan
  8. Nick Fairley
  9. Alan Branch
  10. Jared Odrick
  11. Karl Klug
  12. Terrell McClain
  13. Lawrence Guy
  14. Earl Mitchell
  15. Stacy McGee

Unlike the edge defender market, the 2017 cadre of interior defensive lineman shouldn’t be overly affected by the franchise tender. Head coach Ron Rivera recently confessed the Panthers will “probably” have to use the tag on Kawann Short, but the rest of the defensive tackles listed here should be able to hit the open market. Of the remaining defenders, Campbell is the best overall player, but given that he’s entering his age-31 season, he may not cost as much as Johnathan Hankins, Brandon Williams, and Dontari Poe.Johnathan Hankins (Vertical)

Hankins is only 24 years old, and though the Giants are trying to retain him along with the rest of their defensive core, the 6’3″, 320-pound mauler should represent an attractive option to a number of clubs this offseason. Williams, too, offers a massive presence on the inside, while Poe could intrigue clubs based on his first-round pedigree and athleticism (though his play hasn’t always matched his potential). The Redskins’ Chris Baker is a solid, well-rounded defensive tackle, and could constitute a consolation prize for teams that miss out on their top targets.

The rest of the class offers an interesting mix of nose tackles (Bennie Logan), interior pass rushers (Nick Fairley, Earl Mitchell), and run stoppers (Karl Klug, Alan Branch), so clubs hoping to bolster their defensive line should find no shortage of options. Jared Odrick recently hit free agency after being released by the Jaguars, while Terrell McClain, Lawrence Guy, and Stacy McGee could be underrated finds for the right team. McClain, for what it’s worth, has already been linked to the Falcons.

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Contract Details: Orakpo, D. Williams, Allen

Here are some key details on some of the notable contracts agreed to or signed by free agents this week:

  • Brian Orakpo, OLB (Titans): Four years, $31MM base value. $8.5MM fully guaranteeed. $5MM signing bonus (Twitter links via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun).
  • Dan Williams, DT (Raiders): Four years, $25MM base value. $15.2MM guaranteed. $4MM roster bonus in 2015 (Twitter links via Wilson and Tom Pelissero of USA Today).
  • Nate Allen, S (Raiders): Four years, $23MM base value. $6.9MM fully guaranteed (Twitter links via Wilson)
  • Lance Kendricks, TE (Rams): Four years, $18.5MM base value. $6.75MM fully guaranteed. $4MM roster bonus in 2015 (Twitter links via Wilson).
  • Malcolm Smith, LB (Raiders): Two years, $7MM base value. $3.75MM fully guaranteed. $2MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Pelissero).
  • Blaine Gabbert, QB (49ers): Two years, $4MM base value. $500K signing bonus (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Henry Melton, DT (Buccaneers): One year, $3.75MM base value. $3.25MM fully guaranteed. $1.25MM available in incentives (Twitter link via Pelissero).
  • Adrian Clayborn, DE (Falcons): One year, $3MM base value. $750K signing bonus. $1.25MM available in incentives (Twitter links via Wilson).

Raiders Sign Malcolm Smith

WEDNESDAY, 7:35pm: The contract is a two-year deal worth $7MM, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).

5:46pm: The Raiders announced on Twitter that the deal is official.

TUESDAY, 3:48pm: Flush with salary cap space, the Raiders are starting to bring in some more talent after missing on some key targets during “soft free agency” this weekend. Former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith will join the Raiders’ strong young linebacking corps, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted.

Terms of the impending deal have not been disclosed, but it appears the four-year veteran will join Khalil Mack and Sio Moore on the Raiders’ second level.

Most known for his game-breaking interception of Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLVIII last February, Smith was not a regular starter with the Seahawks. A 2011 seventh-round pick, Smith started five games last year and played just 286 snaps, receiving a poor assessment from Pro Football Focus in the process (subscription required). Smith did grade far better in 2013, however, in more than 600 snaps.

Smith does offer value in having experience at all three positions in a 4-3 defense at linebacker, although the former USC product primarily played weakside backer for the loaded Seattle corps the past two seasons.