In a move that will certainly inspire #abovereproach trolling from Seahawks fans, the San Francisco 49ers have exercised the 5th year option on outside linebacker Aldon Smith. The 2015 option features a salary of $9,754,000. That salary is immediately guaranteed for injury, and will become fully guaranteed on the first day of the 2015 league year (middle of next March). If Smith played out the option year, he would then become an unrestricted free agent following the 2015 season. The 49ers and Smith can still negotiate a contract extension aside from the option. His 2014 salary remains $2,336,454, with a cap hit of $4,576,727.
The window to make this decision opened after the final regular season game, and closes at 8:59 p.m. PT tonight. The 49ers took their time assessing the situation, and would seemingly have done as much due diligence as humanly possible at this point. They have not been in the easiest of situations with this decision. Aldon has had multiple off-field incidents in his time with the team. He had the 2012 DUI reduced to reckless driving. He had the 2012 house party in which he was stabbed with a pocket knife, and subsequent weapons possession charges emerged. He had the 2013 DUI that resulted in a rehab stint. And of course, he had the LAX misdemeanor bomb threat incident.
The team's decision to exercise the option does not mean they are overlooking these incidents, or are not concerned about future transgressions. In exercising the option, I think the 49ers believe Aldon can turn his life around and become a positive off-the-field person, while remaining a dominating force on the field. However, the 49ers can still elect to release Smith if he finds future trouble.
For now, we are more or less wrapped on this situation. Aldon Smith is under roster control through 2015, but it does not guarantee he'll be on the roster in 2015. Hopefully he gets things figured out, but it really will be a day-to-day kind of thing.
And of course, I'd imagine it's safe to say we'll certainly see some hot takes from national media on this decision. I'm sure a local person or two will chime in with their own moralistic evaluation of Jed York, Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh. It's annoying, but hard to get in too much of a huff over it because these same people would just find something else to come down on the team about.