49ers to Release Aldon Smith

Aldon Smith found himself in another off the field situation last night which has led the 49ers to release their best pass rusher according to Cam Inman and confirmed by the 49ers.

Smith has had so many off the field issues that it was going to be difficult for the 49ers to keep him in the fold regardless of his talent level. The 49ers had already somewhat planned for this possibility when they reworked Smith’s contract this offseason, in what proved to a financially saavy move for the 49ers. 

The 49ers had originally picked up Smith’s $9.754 million option which would have been fully guaranteed had he been on the roster the first day of the 2015 League Year. Knowing the risk involved with Smith, the 49ers approached him with a paycut that would tie a majority of that $9.754 million into being active and out of trouble. None of the deal was guaranteed.

This proved to be a very good move for San Francisco because had Smith been on the option year, they would have had a harder time releasing without financial penalty. Though there are many reasons for guarantees to void in a contract in general there would have been no reason to release him until found guilty, which can take some time. A release on the presumption of guilt would likely lead to a non-injury grievance being filed by the NFLPA and the tying up of cap money in the interim.

As part of the new contract Smith did earn $1.1 million in offseason roster bonuses, the final of which was earned on August 1, and another $500,000 in workout bonus money.   That money will count against the 49ers salary cap this season. Overall his release will create about $2.9 million in cap room once you factor in his replacement on the team.

The 49ers could have kept Smith and hoped he was suspended by the NFL for the season, which should have given them the chance to recover the $1.1 million in roster bonus money, but they likely only controlled a small portion of funds related to him, which meant recovery would not be easy. If the league dragged their feet on a suspension or decided to wait until the courts hear the case, the 49ers could have been left owing Smith more money once the season began and Smith was active.  In my opinion it wasnt worth the trouble of having to defend keeping him or possibly pay him more just to have a chance to recover some of the money paid.