There comes a time when no matter how talented a player may be, the trouble they find themselves in off the field outweighs what they do in between the lines. For Aldon Smith and the San Francisco 49ers, that time has come.
Smith was recently detained at an airport after becoming belligerent with a TSA agent and making a comment that he had a bomb. Smith was apparently angered when he was randomly selected for a second screening when going through a terminal. This is the just the latest of many run-ins that Smith has had with the law during his three years in the NFL.
In November, Smith pleaded not guilty to felony weapons charges stemming from an incident that occurred during a party at his home in 2012. He has also been arrested multiple times for drunk driving, and missed five games during the 2013 season in order to enter a rehab facility. Given the issues that Smith appears to have and the headaches he continues to cause the 49ers, it’s time for the team to cut their losses and move on from the linebacker.
Smith is in the final season of the four-year contract he signed after being drafted with the No. 7 overall pick in 2011. The 49ers have an option for a fifth season, but it’s unclear if they will decide to exercise it given recent events. Smith has been a dominant pass rusher during his three seasons in the league, recording 42 sacks in 43 games. While the 49ers may be a better team with him on the field, they did just fine without him in 2013.
With Smith in rehab, San Francisco went 5-0 while Dan Skuta and rookie Corey Lemonier played in his absence. The defense only allowed a little over 12 points a game during that stretch, which is proof that with players like Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks leading the unit, the 49ers can still get the job done without Smith.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the 49ers look to trade Smith, although it’s likely that he finishes out his contract with or without the fifth-year option. However, barring a complete turnaround, the 49ers shouldn’t invest long-term in the troubled star. The team should start planning to be without Smith in the next year or two. They can do so by continuing to groom Lemonier, or using one of their many draft picks on an eventual replacement.
For a team that could be in the title hunt for the foreseeable future, Smith just isn’t worth the distraction.