The 49ers invested heavily in Malcolm Smith this offseason, but it appears the veteran linebacker won’t play a down for San Francisco in 2017.
Smith, the former Oakland and Seattle veteran, signed a five-year deal worth $26.5 million with the 49ers, including $13 million guaranteed. The Niners figured Smith would be a perfect addition because of his familiarity with coordinator Robert Saleh’s new system, which both learned while together in Seattle.
Even though the 49ers spent a first-round draft pick on Reuben Foster this spring, head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch figured Smith’s presence would allow the team to take the pressure off Foster and allow him to come along slowly.
Now, Smith is reported to have a torn pectoral muscle. The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Smith will miss all of 2017.
Even at the time of the injury, during a practice at Levi’s Stadium Saturday, Shanahan said he thought the injury might keep Smith out a long time.
“Malcolm seemed a bit more serious,” Shanahan told the media after that practice. “He’s going to get it checked out now, and I’ll have more for you later. I have a feeling it’s going to be a little bit (of time) with Malcolm.”
Before Smith was injured, Saleh told Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com that Foster was off to a strong start in camp, making a “lot of flash plays,” but he would have to earn a starting role and snaps.
“The best way I can explain with Reuben is he’ll get his opportunity when he absolutely, absolutely deserves it,” said Saleh.
Wagoner said Ray-Ray Armstrong replaced Smith with the first team in weekend practices after the injury. But, he wrote, “Foster’s ascension up the depth chart could be expedited following Smith’s injury.”
The 49ers open their exhibition season Friday night in Kansas City against the Chiefs.