SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco 49ers exercised their 2015 contract option for linebacker Aldon Smith on Friday, making the decision despite the star defender's legal trouble that included an arrest at Los Angeles International Airport just more than two weeks ago.
The team faced a Saturday deadline to decide on Smith's immediate future, and general manager Trent Baalke suggested last week the team would keep the fearsome pass-rusher around for the near future at least — for 2015, “and '16, and '17 and '18.”
The 49ers will provide Smith with the support he needs to deal with his rash of off-the-field issues.
Yet Baalke has made it clear there must be positive change, and soon.
San Francisco realizes Smith still could face a suspension from the NFL for his DUI last September, and is expected to look for depth at linebacker during next week's NFL draft.
“Well, that remains to be seen. You prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Baalke said of a potential suspension for Smith. “There are still a lot of things that are going to factor into that decision at the league level and the club level. We're working very diligently in the background trying to make sure the right decisions are made long term, not only for Aldon but for this club.”
In his latest run-in with the law, Smith was arrested April 13 at Los Angeles International Airport. Police say the 24-year-old NFL star was randomly selected for a secondary screening and became uncooperative with the process, telling a TSA agent that he had a bomb. The district attorney has referred the case for misdemeanor consideration.
That followed Smith's five-game absence last season to undergo treatment for substance abuse after a September DUI arrest. In November, he pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon, stemming from a June 2012 party at his home. Investigators say several shots were fired, two partygoers were injured and Smith was stabbed. In the subsequent investigation, prosecutors say detectives found five unregistered,