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

SEC Schedule Breakdown on Thu, Jun 2017 by Blade
CFL Betting News and Notes Week 1 on Tue, Jun 2017 by Blade
College Football Conference Previews on Tue, Jun 2017 by Blade
College Football Quarterback Rankings on Thu, Jun 2017 by Blade
Handicapping 2017 Win Totals on Mon, Jun 2017 by Blade

Top NFL Public Bets

NFL Top Stories

Thumbnail NFC East Division Odds Are the Cowboys favored to repeat as NFC East Division champions in 2017?
Thumbnail Bills showing interest in Maclin Could the Bills be on the verge of signing Jeremy Maclin, who was recently released by the Chiefs?

NFL Team Pages