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Will the 49ers use the NFL franchise tag on Aldon Smith next year?

The San Francisco 49ers face a decision on Aldon Smith in the near future. If the two sides can't come to an agreement between now and next spring, will the team use their franchise tag?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL reaches another franchise tag deadline on Wednesday. If a team used the tag on a player, they have until 1 p.m. PT to reach an agreement on a long term deal. If a deal is not reached, the player cannot sign an extension until after the season, and is forced to either sit out the year or play on the franchise tender. The most notable players this year include wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant, and pass rusher Justin Houston.

The San Francisco 49ers last used the franchise tag on Dashon Goldson in 2012, and Aubrayo Franklin in 2010. They are not using it this year, but in 2016, it could get a little bit more interesting. The 49ers have several notable free agents, and the franchise tag is not entirely out of the question.

The 49ers 2016 free agents include Aldon Smith, Alex Boone, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. I don't see any argument for Boldin or Davis to get the tag, and Boone's restructured deal prevents the team from placing the franchise tag on him.

That leaves Aldon Smith. The outside linebacker is signed to a one-year deal that has numerous roster bonuses to cover the 49ers in case Smith gets in trouble. However, if Smith can stay on the field all 16 games, we know he can be a force in the pass rush. The 49ers are unlikely to try and extend him before the season, opening the door to the franchise tag next spring. A franchised linebacker received $11,058,000 this year and $9,754,000 a year ago. Smith could earn as much as that latter tag money this year under his option year.

I imagine the linebacker franchise tender would go up over $12 million next year. It is a sizable chunk of change, and fully guaranteed upon signing the tender. But if Smith shows he is back at least close to his 2012 form, it would seem like a decent option if the two sides cannot work out a long-term deal.