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NFL free agency rumors: 49ers expected to sign LB Malcolm Smith

The 49ers need depth at linebacker, and could make a bit of a splash.

The San Francisco 49ers will need to add some linebackers as they move to their new-look 4-3 Under defense, and they are looking at a familiar name. FOX Sports NFL reporter Peter Schrager is reporting the 49ers and linebacker Malcolm Smith have mutual interest. Matt Barrows has subsequently confirmed the report.

Fooch’s update: Mike Garafolo is reporting Smith will sign with the 49ers when free agency opens.

Smith played for the Raiders the past two seasons, playing weakside linebacker. He led the team in tackles each season by a sizable margin. This came after spending the first four seasons of his career with the Seattle Seahawks. He was primarily a reserve for the Seahawks before earning Super Bowl MVP honors. He signed a short deal to prove he was worth something bigger, and leading the Raiders in tackles was a step in the right direction.

He has experience with Robert Saleh from their time together in Seattle, so he knows how this defense is expected to work. The 49ers have Ray-Ray Armstrong as a potential OLB in this defense following his late 2016 two-year contract extension, but we don’t know what the new brain trust thinks of him. If Smith agrees to a deal, the size of it could tell us what they think about their depth at LB.