Fooch's Update: 49ers exercised the option
Decision day is upon us. The San Francisco 49ers have until the end of the day today to decide whether or not they will exercise Aldon Smith's 5th year option. I had initially thought it was at some point on Saturday, May 3, but as Matt Maiocco pointed out, the collective bargaining agreement specifically states the the option must be exercised PRIOR to May 3. That means, the 49ers have to decide by 9 PT tonight because league business is conducted on an eastern time schedule.
At this point, I think the 49ers exercise the option. Nobody can say with certainty that it will happen, but Trent Baalke has seemed to be pointing to the franchise being able to work with Aldon moving forward. Baalke acknowledged last week that the discussion was still going on. Matt Maiocco reported that a source said the 49ers would take as long as possible in finalizing the decision. This comes as Cam Inman was reporting one front office executive elsewhere in the league thought the 49ers would exercise the option, and Jason LaCanfora reported several league sources anticipated the team would exercise the option.
The discussion about Aldon's option has been quite the roller coaster this past month. After the LAX incident, columnists across the country came down with the moral hammer. Tim Kawakami got everybody all abuzz over all sorts of anonymous comments from the 49ers front office. It all seemed to peak when Adam Schefter reported a league source said the 49ers were not expected to exercise the option. It sometimes feels like people treat Schefter as sort of from God to Schefter to the masses. In reality, I think it has become clear his source was mostly speculating. Maybe he got some buzz on it from the 49ers, but I'm skeptical about the sourcing on that.
Part of the problem with this kind of story is the build-up is less about facts, and more about what people are hearing. When an anonymous source reports the 49ers signed player X, the resolution usually happens fairly quickly. Since the LAX incident happened three weeks before the team had to decide on his option, and we still had the April 29 court date to wait on, we were left with speculation and nothing really resembling hard facts.
I have no problem with speculation based on anonymous sourcing. Anonymous sources are the life blood of a lot of quality journalism. The problem is when people don't acknowledge that their sources might have a certain agenda in providing the information. I have no doubt that sources were telling people they did not expect the 49ers to exercise Aldon Smith's option. And you can form an opinion based on that kind of stuff, but I'd love to see more analysis of WHY the source is providing this information.
In this case, there are plenty of agendas. The 49ers couldn't just exercise the option and be done with it because of the off-field issues. And I would not be surprised if the 49ers are in touch with the NFL through today trying to figure out what kind of punishment Smith might face. The 49ers wrapped up their second week of the offseason workout program this week, and with Smith participating in Santa Clara, I'm sure there have been plenty of opportunities to sit down and discuss the situation. The decision is going to take a certain gut check by Trent Baalke and Jed York. I think they end up exercising the option, but we'll just have to wait and see how it plays out the rest of today.