The San Francisco 49ers are parting ways with Pierre Garçon and Earl Mitchell, but it appears linebacker Malcolm Smith will return for at least one more year. Smith was a potential cap casualty, but NFL Network reporter Mike Garafolo is reporting he has restructured his contract to remain with the 49ers.
There is no word on what the restructured deal looks like. Back in 2017, Smith signed a five-year contract worth up to $26.5 million, with options years in 2020 and 2021. He was due to make $3,750,000 in base salary this year, with $300,000 in bonuses. His cap hit was $5,418,750. His cap hits for 2020 and 2021 were $6.1 million and $6.55 million, respectively.
Had the 49ers released him now, they would have carried $4.2 million in dead money and saved $1,218,750 in cap space. If they had released him after the new league year began and designated him a post-June 1 cut, they would have saved $4,018,750 in cap space this year, carrying $1.4 million in 2019 dead money and $2.8 million in 2020 dead money.
Smith missed all of 2017 after suffering a torn pectoral muscle in training camp. He missed the first two weeks of 2018 with a hamstring injury, and then played in 12 of the remaining 14 games. He split time between weak-side and strong-side linebacker and offered some useful depth. It was not really worth the price the 49ers were paying him, which makes the restructure not surprising.
Fred Warner is locked in as the 49ers middle linebacker, but they have some questions at WILL and SAM. Smith returns and could compete at both roles. Brock Coyle returns after spending the season on IR and will compete at WILL. The 49ers tendered Elijah Lee as an exclusive rights free agent, so he will compete as well. SAM linebacker Mark Nzeocha is due to hit free agency.
The team has some options through free agency and the draft for figuring out what to do long-term at the positions. When free agency opens next week, C.J. Mosley could be a target for the WILL position, while Anthony Barr could be a target for the SAM position.