NFL free agency rumors are in full swing just hours before the time when contracts can be officially offered by NFL teams. Oakland Raiders linebacker Malcolm Smith is a prominent name in the rumor mill today, as he has reportedly agreed to sign with the San Francisco 49ers, as indicated by Fansided. According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, the former Super Bowl MVP will be reunited with one of his coaches from his days with the Seattle Seahawks, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.
Saleh’s familiarity with Malcolm Smith, and in turn, Smith’s knowledge of Saleh’s defensive schemes, are thought to be the driving force behind the 49ers’ interest in signing Smith. Smith is a very athletic linebacker, but his career has mostly been underwhelming to this point. Originally a seventh-round draft choice out of USC, Smith defied the odds early on in his NFL career and carved out a niche for himself with the team who drafted him, the Seattle Seahawks. Smith’s play was spotty in Seattle, but he had a big day in Super Bowl XLVIII against the Denver Broncos, taking home MVP honors.
Malcolm Smith signed with the Oakland Raiders in 2015, putting up good numbers in his first two years as a full-time starter in the NFL. Smith tallied 123 tackles and four sacks in 2015 and followed that up with a 103-tackle campaign this past season. Despite achieving some statistical success, NFL analyst Andy Benoit isn’t a fan of Malcolm Smith’s game, stating that he doesn’t play with enough awareness. Benoit goes on to summarize Smith’s abilities as “more of an athlete than a refined linebacker.”
This would not be the first time Smith has followed one of his coaches to a new team. When Smith signed with the Raiders, he was going to the team along with former coach Ken Norton, Jr. Norton was hired by Oakland to be their defensive coordinator, and Malcolm Smith decided to sign with the Silver and Black as a result (per SB Nation). Smith showed progress under Norton’s watch these past two seasons, and now, the San Francisco 49ers are hoping to do the same as they pair Smith with another of his former tutors, Robert Saleh.
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Malcolm Smith has a great deal of athletic talent and will likely be the starting weakside linebacker for the 49ers, as described by SportsNaut. However, the quality of this signing will depend largely on how expensive Smith will be when San Francisco makes their official offer on Thursday. Potential contract details are not available at this time, so we can only speculate as to how much of a dent Smith will make in the 49ers’ salary cap.
The 49ers and new general manager John Lynch have wasted no time in trying to get San Francisco back to the glory days, as the team has been the subject of various NFL free agency rumors this week. The 49ers have been linked to quarterback Brian Hoyer, as well as wide receivers Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garcon.
Now, the team appears poised to address the defense with the addition of Malcolm Smith. San Francisco is coming off a disastrous 2016 season, going 2-14 on the year. Lynch seems to be taking a very aggressive approach to his first foray into free agency as a general manager, but there is much more work to be done before the 49ers will begin to look like contenders again.
The Oakland Raiders are also looking for help in free agency, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. They are said to be targeting a defensive tackle, linebacker and cornerback as they attempt to rebuild their defense. However, the team appears to be perfectly willing to let Malcolm Smith sign with their rival across the bay, as they have shown little interest in bringing back the 27-year-old linebacker. Both the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders are in the midst of a new era, and that era officially begins on Thursday afternoon when players are allowed by the league to start putting pen to paper.
[Featured Image by Eduardo Verdugo/AP Images]