49ers' Malcolm Smith: Loses starting job late in year
Smith finished with 35 tackles (22 solo) in 12 games this season.
Smith missed the first two games of the season due to a hamstring injury sustained during training camp. Once he returned, he took over the starting Sam position alongside Reuben Foster and opposite Fred Warner. As the season progressed, Foster was released, pushing Warner to the middle and Smith to a more prominent starting weakside linebacker role. The veteran did not perform terribly in his five starts, but with the 49ers well out of contention, the team opted to start the younger Elijah Lee over Smith. Lee thrived in the starting role and appears to be the favorite to start alongside Warner to begin the 2019 season. Smith still has three years left on the five-year, $26.5 million contract he signed in 2017, which is a lot of money to have riding the pine. If the 29-year-old is unable to secure a starting job in the offseason, it wouldn't be surprising to see him either cut or traded.
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