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49ers release LB Malcolm Smith; sign WR Nick Williams

is this the start of a youth movement?

San Francisco 49ers v Denver Broncos Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Per Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network, the San Francisco 49ers are releasing linebacker Malcolm Smith. Smith was spent two seasons with the Niners, but has battled injuries and has never been able to make the impact like the team had initially hoped.

In today’s 53-man roster projection, we had Smith missing the cut. Smith had been nursing a hamstring injury. He played six defensive snaps Saturday night against the Chiefs, while Alexander played 23 snaps, and Warner played 22. What you were asking him to do wasn’t worth his $5.5 million cap number. The 49ers save $1.35 million in cap savings, per Overthecap.

On the field, this could signal a trend towards youth and athleticism, with Dre Greenlaw and Azeez Al-Shaair. They don’t play the strong side linebacker spot that Smith did, but that position is rarely on the field in today’s NFL. 75% of the time, you’re on the field with two linebackers. Smith wasn’t going to be one of those linebackers. Let the young guys play special teams and develop. It’ll be interesting to see if there are any other “surprise” cuts, as the date to cut your roster down to 53 approaches.

The corresponding move the 49ers made was to sign wide receiver Nick Williams

Williams (5-10, 184) originally entered the NFL after signing with the Washington Redskins as an undrafted rookie free agent on May 1, 2013. In five NFL seasons with the Redskins (2013), Atlanta Falcons (2015-17), Tennessee Titans (2018) and Los Angeles Rams (2018), he appeared in 26 games and registered 30 receptions for 280 yards and two touchdowns. He also saw action in two postseason contests with Atlanta in 2017. The Denver Broncos signed Williams on July 26, 2019, and later released by the team on August 26.

A 28-year-old native of Princeton, NJ, Williams attended the University of Connecticut where he appeared in 43 games and registered 43 receptions for 588 yards and two touchdowns in addition to 79 kick returns for 2,045 yards and two touchdowns on special teams.