The news just keeps getting better and better for the 49ers.
I’m hearing this will be 49ers DT Justin Smith’s last game. Retirement looming after 14 yrs. in the NFL
— Alex Flanagan (@Alex_Flanagan) December 28, 2014
I guess it’s not that much of a surprise, since Smith played “a whole season last year with half an arm,” according to Vic Fangio, who also alluded to Smith playing through injuries lately. But Smith is under contract for several million dollars next year, and he was one of the team’s best defensive players yet again in 2014.
- Tied for second on the team in sacks (five)
- Second on the team in fumbles forced (two)
- Second among 49ers defensive players in PFF’s rankings (Smith’s score going into today’s game is +18.1 — Chris Borland finished with a score of +20.8)
Smith isn’t quite playing at the First-Team All-Pro level we saw in 2011, but he has a chance of being named Second-Team All-Pro by the Associated Press for a third consecutive year. “The Cowboy” was arguably the team’s most valuable player in ’11, when he tied up multiple blockers on each play, allowing the team’s linebackers (Aldon Smith, in particular) to thrive.
Smith had 43.5 sacks in seven years with the Bengals, and going into today’s game he has 43.5 sacks in seven seasons with the 49ers. He’s fourth among all active players with 216 starts. He missed just two games in his 49ers tenure, in 2012 after suffering a torn triceps in New England.
Is Smith a Hall of Famer? Anyone who’s been watching the 49ers closely over the last several years would probably say “Absolutely!” However, it’s pretty tough to get inducted without a ring, and Smith finished just short of a Super Bowl win in the 2012 season. Who knows, maybe the 49ers would’ve claimed their sixth Lombardi Trophy if Smith didn’t get hurt late in that season.
Either way, Smith has had a phenomenal career. And while this report may turn out to be true, the next 49ers head coach’s first mission should probably involve a trip to Missouri this offseason to convince Smith to come back for one more season.