Outside linebacker Aldon Smith and the 49ers agreed on Thursday to a restructured one-year contract that will pay his scheduled $9.754 million salary through a series of roster bonuses.
The new deal does not offer the 49ers any cap relief. And the benefit for Smith is that his willingness to rework his contract is a sign of good faith that he hopes will lead to a long-term extension to remain with the 49ers beyond the 2015 season.
The 49ers picked up the fifth-year option on Smith’s contract last offseason. The $9.754 million would have become fully guaranteed on Tuesday, the first day of the new league year.
“It wasn’t like they said, ‘If you don’t do this, you’re cut,’” said Doug Hendrickson, who represents Smith.
“The thought behind it is that Aldon realizes he’s been his own worst enemy. He has come a long way since he was suspended. Ultimately his goal, my goal, and the team’s goal is for him to sign a long-term contract with the Niners.”
Smith was suspended for the first nine games of last season for violations of the NFL’s policies on substance abuse and personal conduct.
“Ultimately, he’s loyal and he appreciates all the 49ers have done for him,” Hendrickson said. “They have supported him. He recognizes that, and he doesn’t want to go anywhere. He wants to continue to build trust and show them who he is.
“He’s basically saying, ‘I’m willing to bet on myself.' "
The new structure of Smith’s contract provides for Smith to earn his entire scheduled salary through incremental roster bonuses, beginning in April. Smith would make approximately $2 million prior to the beginning of the regular season. He would earn the balance of his scheduled salary through 53-man roster bonuses for the remainder of the regular season.
The deal has been in the works for more than a month, Hendrickson said. Two weeks ago at the NFL Scouting Combine, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke was asked about Smith.
“A lot of people haven't had the pleasure of meeting Aldon,” Baalke said. “(He’s) a great young man. He's had some off-the-field adversity, some personal adversity that he's trying to deal with and is dealing with. But, if you've ever had an opportunity to meet him, I think you'd feel how most of us feel, a tremendous young man."