SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -The San Francisco 49ers waived linebacker Derek Smith on Tuesday, cutting ties with their longtime leading tackler whose role was assumed last season by rookie Patrick Willis.
Smith, an 11-year pro who signed a three-year contract extension before the 2006 season, was due to make $3.28 million in base salary next season despite his dwindling role on the San Francisco defense. Willis, the NFL's defensive rookie of the year, took over Smith's role as the 49ers' defensive leader and top tackler.
``Derek has been an important member of the 49ers,'' coach Mike Nolan said. ``You don't make these kinds of decisions without battling the emotion that is natural when you are dealing with a player that has done so much for your organization. We made the decision because we have quality linebackers who we think are the future of the 49ers. Derek was a model professional, and he influenced a lot of the younger players with his work ethic.''
Smith has long been one of the NFL's top unsung defensive players, annually racking up gaudy tackling statistics with little fanfare. He made at least 123 tackles in each of his first nine NFL seasons - four with Washington and five with San Francisco, where he has played since signing as a free agent in 2001.
Smith was voted the 49ers' co-MVP in 2005, but missed two games in 2006 because of a strained eye muscle that limited his peripheral vision, eventually requiring surgery. He started 14 games and made 98 tackles last season, but his playing time decreased significantly in the final months of San Francisco's fifth straight losing campaign.

Recent NFL Discussions

2016 College Conference Previews on Tue, Jun 2016 by Blade
2016 QB Rankings on Wed, Jun 2016 by Blade
2016 Coaching Changes on Wed, Jun 2016 by Blade

NFL Top Stories

Thumbnail Talib shot in the leg Aqib Talibwas shot in the leg on Saturday, but seems to have avoided serious injury and will be able to return to the Denver Broncos...
Thumbnail Romo eyes lengthy return Injuries have been an issue at times for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, but the veteran NFL star is far from thinking about...
Thumbnail Lockette retiring from Seahawks The Seattle Seahawks are losing another skill-position player from last year’s team as receiver Ricardo Lockette is expected to announce his retirement...
Thumbnail Dolphins securing the D-Line The Miami Dolphins are trying to make a push for the playoffs and they aided that on Saturday by signing Cameron Wake to a two-year...
Thumbnail Updated Super Bowl LI Odds The 2016 NFL Draft has now concluded. How did the draft impact the odds to win the Super Bowl next season?
More inNFL Articles  

NFL Team Pages