The one common question every Forever Faithful has been asking me is whether San Francisco 49ers DE Justin Smith will return for a 15th season. A three-time All-Pro, Smith is strongly contemplating retiring from the game as other teammates with less mileage before him have already done including ILB Patrick Willis and one-year ILB Chris Borland.
And while he has yet to make an official decision, I would take a guess and say it’s 90 percent sure he is not returning in 2015. That’s just my gut feeling.
49ers beat writers caught up with head coach Jim Tomsula yesterday as he was asked about Smith’s playing status and Tomsula said that he spoke to Cowboy about a week ago.
“For the last three or four years, we’ve talked about it,” Tomsula told local media. “We all want Justin Smith to come back and play football. But, he’s earned a right to make that decision and take the time he needs and he needs to think it through, he does.”
Before free-agency began on Feb. 3, I wrote an article on “Why Eddie Goldman or Arik Armstead Makes Sense For 49ers Defense,” as I felt they would be a nice player to groom in case Smith retires. But with the 49ers signing DE Darnell Dockett on March 5, that theory went out the window, leaving me to reconsider that mindset.
I then wrote a follow up article about two weeks ago on “Three Reasons Why 49ers Should Avoid Drafting Defensive Line With 15th Pick,” and it looks like the 49ers may indeed go in that direction as Tomsula said the team has been preparing for years to move on from their five-time Pro Bowler.
“For four years you’ve seen the D-linemen we’ve brought in. We’ve been making preparations. This isn’t a this year thing for us,” Tomsula told beat writers. “We’ve been making preparations. The guy gets to 12 years in the National Football League and he’s about a 92 percent rep count playing defensive line. You better start making preparations. So that started a while ago.”
“When looking at the San Francisco 49ers roster one would think that the team has glaring holes along the defensive line. A team that is on the verge of losing both of their 2014 defensive-end starters as DE Ray McDonald was cut while DE Justin Smith ponders retirement, many NFL pundits are weighing in their two cents on why a defensive end should be considered with the team’s first-round pick. However, I strongly disagree with that assessment.
The 49ers have depth all the way around at the position. From veterans DE Darnell Dockett and NT Glenn Dorsey to promising talents like DE Tank Carradine and DE Quinton Dial, there is no question the team is stacked down in the trenches. Not to mention, the team also has NT Ian Williams as well, it looks to me that no defensive lineman projected to be available around the 15th pick would be worth their investment.”
Was this one of Tomsula’s first smoke-screens? Or did he in fact tip his hand? No one knows for sure but if I had to take a guess, my money would be on the 49ers not selecting a defensive-end with the 15th pick as Tomsula worked with the defensive line exclusively over the years.