Should/will the 49ers sign Bengals DE Justin Smith?


We are now one week away from the start of free agency and aside from the Lance Briggs tampering drama, names are being thrown around like crazy.  The Bernard Berrian rumors have died down and there are some who are not convinced the 49ers will shell out for Briggs.  However, Matt Maiocco is pretty convinced the 49ers will make a run at Justin Smith.

Last year the 49ers two big targets were Nate Clements and Adalius Thomas.  1-for-2 worked out ok, although I know most of us would have loved having Thomas lining up with Patrick Willis.  This year, Justin Smith is one of multiple targets for the 49ers and so I thought I'd get what info I could on the Bengals defensive end.  I spoke with our Bengals blogger over at Cincy Jungle who had some thoughts on the Bengals likely loss of Smith.  One particularly interesting point was at the end:

The Steelers played with the idea of bringing him in for their 3-4 with Dick LeBeau quoted as saying he'd be a better fit in that system. Though I seriously doubt they'll pay his price tag if he doesn't drop his demands. The Rams and Buccaneers have also expressed interest.

Smith is a known commodity in the league but I thought I'd roll out Scouts Inc's thoughts on Smith (Insider protected) for your viewing pleasure:

He is a tough football player, will play hurt and has proven to be very durable. He has been reliable. Smith consistently chases the ball and makes plays downfield and from the backside in pursuit. He is a physical hitter and pretty good wrap-up tackler who is capable of jarring the ball loose. In the running game, he is difficult for most tight ends to handle and does a fine job of staying square to the line of scrimmage. He stays disciplined with his run lanes...

Off the snap, he has good, but not great quickness. He has several pass rush moves and continues to improve his skills and repertoire of countermoves, but many of his sacks are the result of hustle. Smith doesn't excel in any one area of his game, nor is he glaringly deficient in any area. He isn't particularly fluid and cannot bend the edge like many of the elite pass rushers in the league. The Bengals will occasionally drop Smith into coverage, but this isn't something that comes natural to him...

He is a liability against pass-catching running backs and tight ends, but he is light on his feet when moving in reverse. He can be slow to change directions and will occasionally come out of his stance too upright and expose too much of his chest to opposing blockers. He can also be a bit slow to shed bigger blockers...[Smith] isn't a game-changing player, but is an upper-echelon starting defensive end.

So, a generally scouting report would indicate he hustles and busts his butt even when hurt, but is not quite as athletic as the premier defensive ends.  I'm curious to see what kind of contract Smith is able to net, whether it be with the 49ers or any other team.  There is still the question of Marques Douglas, but I think Justin Smith is a clear upgrade at defensive end and could definitely benefit a young defensive lineman like Ray McDonald who has shown solid promise.

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