- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN San Francisco 49ers reporter
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Aldon Smith, like many fans, would most likely prefer a do-over for last season.
The San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker missed the first nine games of the season while serving a league-mandated suspension for general malfeasance and finished with a career-low two sacks, both of which came in his second game back. In fact, he was rated as an “average” player for the Niners in a joint ESPN.com/Pro Football Focus project, while many saw him as being “bad” for the Niners.
“He has been here for everything,” general manager Trent Baalke told reporters at Levi’s Stadium on Friday, referring to the team’s voluntary offseason workout program.
Smith restructured his contract in March to turn his $9,754,000 salary for 2015 into a series of bonuses, with a base salary of $1 million and an offseason workout bonus of $500,000, according to ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates. In fact, roster bonuses are due to Smith if he is still on the 49ers' roster on the following dates: April 1 ($200,000), which he obviously was, May 1 ($200,000), June 1 ($200,000), July 1 ($200,000) and Aug. 1 ($300,000). And he earns $322,150 for each game he is on the 53-man roster during the 16-game season, which maxes out at at $5,154,400.
There are also incentives: $2 million if he plays more than 50 percent of the team's defensive snaps or gets at least eight sacks. So yeah, Smith, as long as he stays healthy, happy and performs as he has in the past -- he had 14, 19.5 and 8.5 sacks in his first three seasons, respectively -- has a great shot at earning that full $9,754,000 and getting himself set up for a bigger payday next year.
Smith, who has also battled personal demons and has spent time in rehab for alcohol, is on track, according to Baalke, with what is essentially a one-year “prove-it” deal with the Niners.
“Hungry,” Baalke said of Smith, when asked to describe his mindset this offseason.
“He’s got a great look in his eye. He’s doing well. … For anybody that’s been in a situation like Aldon’s been in, every day is a process. But he’s doing exceptionally well and he’s probably in as good a shape as he’s been in a long time.”
Smith faded late last season.
“[He’s] starting to develop into a leader out there, which is great to see and been a pleasure to watch,” Baalke said. “Look forward to having you guys visit with him.”
After a tough season, linebacker has plenty of incentive -- and incentives -- to get back on track in 2015.