The San Francisco 49ers are most certainly in a bind with Aldon Smith. Not only would exercising the 5th-year option seem to many to be sending the wrong message at this point, but it would also put the 49ers on the hook for $9.75 million in 2015. On the other hand, not exercising the option would open the door for one of the best pass rushers in the NFL to leave via free agency. I would not want to be in Trent Baalke‘s shoes when this decision is made.
If I were, however, this is how I would go about it. I would, first and foremost, sit down with Smith and get his version of the events. I would go through a detailed step-by-step analysis of where Smith is, his maturity level, and where he wants to go/what steps he is taking to get there. I would set up safeguards for his behavior and have someone on staff, be it a player or an intern, check in on him on a regular basis. Finally, I would discuss with Smith and his agent a belief that the best thing for Smith, at this point, would not necessarily be to exercise that 5th-year option, but rather to do a new deal, for, say, 2 years, that was highly incentivized for behavior both on and off the field. That way Smith would have a greater incentive to turn things around and would make good money if he did so. If not, the 49ers would not be on the hook for that much. If Smith truly believes this could be a way to improve his name, then I think he could go for it. If not, the 49ers should then pass on the option and continue to stand by the line that I have suggested Baalke take.
I, however, am not the GM, so I will have to wait and see what happens. What do you think Baalke should do?
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