In a move that was not a surprise based on his role on the team, the Niners on Tuesday said “so long” to linebacker Derek Smith. The role that Smith played in the past had been taken over by Patrick Willis, so the move to release him makes sense. Smith, an 11-year pro, had signed a three-year extension with the Niners back before the 2006 season, and was due to make $3.28 mil this season. You could see the writing on the wall for Smith with his lack of playing time late in the Niners season as Willis was walking away with the defensive rookie of the year award.
“Derek has been an important member of the 49ers,” coach Mike Nolan said. “You don’t make these kinds of decisions without battling the emotion that is natural when you are dealing with a player that has done so much for your organization. We made the decision because we have quality linebackers who we think are the future of the 49ers. Derek was a model professional, and he influenced a lot of the younger players with his work ethic.”
Smith was the teams co-MVP back in 2005, and showed his tackling skills with at least 123 tackles in each of his first nine NFL seasons. He has played with the Redskins and 49’ers, and despite his release the 33-year-old will find a role on a team somwhere in the league that is looking for a linebacker with veteran experience.