I am no NFL historian, but I can't remember a team having a worse offseason than the 49ers have had. News got worse when linebacker Aldon Smith got arrested. Let's look at some Niners futures odds.
So Much Talent, But ...
Smith was the No. 7 overall pick out of Missouri in 2011 and contributed right away. He was an NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate in '11, finishing with 11 sacks; Denver's Von Miller won the award. The next year, Smith finished with 19.5 sacks, which was second to Houston's J.J. Watt, who won his first NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award that year.
Unfortunately, Smith has had major off-field problems since then that have now threatened his career. The latest came on Thursday when Smith was arrested in Santa Clara, Calif., where the 49ers are holding training camp, on hit and run, driving under the influence of alcohol and vandalism charges. It was the team's first night off since camp opened. Clearly this guy has a drinking problem. Smith was arrested and charged with DUI in January 2012. He was arrested for DUI again after a car accident in September 2013. So the NFL suspended him the first nine games of last season for violating the league's personal conduct and substance-abuse policies. Smith also faced felony weapons chargers from a June 2012 party at his house where shots were fired and two people injured. And in April 2014, Smith told a TSA agent at Los Angeles International Airport that he had a bomb because he didn't want to be screened individually after being randomly selected.
Smith has remained productive when he plays. He had 8.5 sacks in 11 games in 2013 and 2.0 in seven games last year (he obviously wasn't in perfect football shape). The guy is a difference-maker and still just 25 years old.
What makes this even stupider for Smith is that the 49ers thought he had grown up since that airport incident and were talking about re-signing him to an extension. This is what GM Trent Baalke told reporters on Tuesday, and boy does he have egg on his face now.
"Aldon's like any young player," Baalke said. "He's growing up, he's maturing. You see that with a lot of these guys. Some of them get themselves in a few more situations that you wish they didn't ... (but I'm) really pleased with the way he's handled things, the way he's working both personally and professionally. I think he's doing an outstanding job."
Back in the spring, Smith restructured his contract and was to make $322,150 for each game he is on the Niners' 53-man roster during the season. Smith has collected more than $1.5 million through workout and roster bonuses this year already. He also could earn a $2 million bonus for playing more than 50 percent of the Niners' defensive snaps or recording eight sacks. The Bay area media has been reporting that Smith had looked fantastic at the start of camp.
Now I don't see how he's not suspended indefinitely by the NFL; Smith might be headed to prison as he was on probation and one condition was no alcohol. The 49ers may just cut him after being embarrassed by Ray McDonald last year. Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon remains on indefinite suspension, and he almost has been a choir boy off the field compared to Smith.
Fade 49ers Futures
I wasn't high on the 49ers before this arrest. When USA Today released its projections of each team's records this season it had San Francisco at 5-11. Of course Coach Jim Harbaugh is gone. So are receiver Michael Crabtree (Raiders), running back Frank Gore (Colts), guard Mike Iupati (Cardinals) and tackle Anthony Davis (retired).
But it's the defense that really has been devastated and that group arguably was the most talented in the NFL as recently as two years ago. The Niners lost star linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland to retirement as well as defensive lineman Justin Smith. Only Smith's was expected. Defensive backs Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox left in free agency. Plus you still have linebacker NaVorro Bowman returning from a very serious injury that cost him all of last season. Just think, the Niners once had Smith, Willis, Bowman and Ahmad Brooks at linebacker (Borland was a rookie last season). That was the best group in the NFL. Now it's Brooks, Michael Wilhoite, Nick Moody and maybe Corey Lemonier in Smith's spot. Not exactly the league's best group.
Smith was +2000 on 5Dimes to lead the NFL in sacks. Let's hope you didn't put any money down there. The 49ers have been given a wins total of six, with the 'under' a -125 favorite on NFL odds. Jim Tomsula, Harbaugh's replacement, is +1600 to be the first coach fired. That doesn't look so far-fetched now as this team might not win more than three games. The Niners have the third-hardest schedule in the NFL with a combined opponents' 2014 winning percentage of .561. They have the hardest home schedule.
NFL Free Picks: Go 'under' the wins and bet the farm that the Niners won't make the playoffs at -610.