Former 49ers Pass Rusher Aldon Smith Returns to NFL

Embattled standout, out of the league since 2015, signs with the Cowboys at age 30

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Aldon Smith isn’t done yet.

The former 49ers standout pass rusher has had a long, winding road in football, from first-round draft pick by San Francisco in 2011, to a 19.5-sack All-Pro year in 2012 to off-the-field issues that blew up his career.

Now the 30-year-old Smith – who hasn’t played a down in the NFL since 2015 – has signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys that could pay him as much as $4 million (with about $2 million in incentives).

“Life is good,” wrote Smith, on his Instagram account Wednesday night, alongside a photo of him signing his contract. “I’m thankful. I’m blessed. I’m a Cowboy.”

Smith played four seasons with the 49ers, but was released in 2015 following a series of incidents, including reported violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse policies and arrests. He then was signed by the Raiders that same season, playing nine games for Oakland, before further off-the-field problems led to his suspension and eventual release.

Now, Smith says he’s healthy and has turned his life around and is grateful for getting another chance to show he can be a difference-maker as a pass rusher in the league.

When he broke into the NFL with the 49ers, he appeared to be on his way to a Hall of Fame career. Smith had 14 sacks as a rookie, the 19.5-sack performance in 2012, then 8.5 over just 11 games in 2013. With the 49ers and Raiders in 2015, he had 5.5 in 16 games. That’s 47.5 sacks in 59 career pro games – a remarkable number.

It’s a low-risk move for the Cowboys, who could benefit greatly if Smith is indeed on the right track again. Ian Rapoport of reported Smith said all the right things after signing with Dallas.

Wrote Smith: “There is beauty in the struggle. Life will always present us w/tests. I’ve learned how to take a different perspective on the adversities of life. Instead of looking at life as a victim, I have embraced the journey as God has planned it, making exponential strides towards becoming a better man.”

Technically, Smith remains suspended by the NFL for his past actions, but Patrick Walker of CBS Sports reports Smith is expected to be reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

When that happens, Smith will work with another former 49er, newly hired defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, who was the Niners’ defensive line coach for Smith’s time in San Francisco (and later the team’s head coach).

If Smith makes the Cowboys roster, 49ers fans will get a chance to see him in action. The 49ers are due to play at Dallas in 2020, with the date to be determined.

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