SANTA CLARA – Aldon Smith and Vernon Davis enter their contract years, and 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said he hopes to get retain both players beyond this season.
Smith agreed to restructure his scheduled $9.754 million contract for this season in hopes that the good-faith gesture would help pave the way for a long-term contract.
“He’s in his contract year,” Baalke said Tuesday. “He’s poised to have a very good year. We expect him to have a very good year. I think he expects himself to have a very good year. We’re going to work hard to make sure that he remains here.”
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The 49ers have high hopes for Smith, who proved to be one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL in his first three NFL seasons. But Smith’s numerous off-field incidents caught up with him last season. He was suspended for the first nine games of last season for violations of the NFL’s policies on substance abuse and personal conduct.
Smith recorded just two sacks in seven games. He has been working hard toward a bounce-back season, Baalke said.
“Aldon’s like any young player, he’s growing up, he’s maturing,” Baalke said. “You see that with a lot of these guys. Some of them get themselves in a few more situations that you wish they didn’t. If you asked them, I think they’d say the same thing.
“(We’re) really pleased with the way he’s handled things, the way he’s working both personally and professionally. I think he’s doing an outstanding job. He’s always been a great teammate. He’s always had an excellent work ethic. Those are things that he’s even stepped up.”
Davis is the 49ers’ other high-profile player whose contract is set to expire after this season. Davis had a down season, catching just 26 passes for 245 yards with two touchdowns last season. The 49ers are encouraged that Davis, too, will re-establish himself as a top player at his position this season. Baalke said he has spoken with Davis about the team’s stance in keeping him around.
Of course, Baalke's desire to re-sign Smith and Davis is no guarantee either player will return in 2016. Baalke expressed a preference for re-signing running back Frank Gore last season. But the Indianapolis Colts placed a higher value on Gore, who signed a three-year, $12 million contract with a team expected to be a Super Bowl contender.
“We’re always going to try to keep our own,” Baalke said. “Sometimes it works. As you’ve seen, sometimes it doesn’t. But Vernon and I have had conversations and we’ll leave it at that. He understands where we are and we certainly understand where he is.”