NFL roster cuts 2019: 49ers release veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith

NFL roster cuts 2019: 49ers release veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers released veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith on Tuesday, which signals a vote of confidence for rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw.

Smith, 30, was one of the defensive centerpieces of the first day of 2017 free agency when the 49ers signed him to a five year, $26.5 million contract. However, Smith missed the entire 2017 season with a torn pectoral. He appeared in 12 games last season, including five starts.

The 49ers signed wide receiver Nick Willams to fill the roster spot ahead of the team's final preseason game on Thursday against the Los Angeles Chargers. Williams entered the NFL in 2013 as an undrafted rookie with Washington, where 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator. He also spent time with Atlanta, Tennessee, the Los Angeles Rams and Denver, appearing in 26 games and catching 30 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns.

The 49ers restructured Smith’s contract in the offseason. The club does not have to pay him his scheduled $1.25 million base salary. Smith, an eight-year NFL veteran, is now free to sign with any NFL team.

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Smith played his first four seasons with the Seattle, where he was named MVP of Super Bowl XLVIII following the Seahawks’ 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos. He played two seasons with the Raiders before signing as a free agent with the 49ers.

The decision to release Smith before the 49ers’ final preseason game appears to signal that Greenlaw is in line to start, along with linebackers Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander. Greenlaw, a fifth-round draft pick, was impressive in training camp and during the exhibition season.

49ers inactives: Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis won't play vs. Saints


49ers inactives: Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis won't play vs. Saints

The 49ers' receiving corps will be thin Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. 

Marquise Goodwin (knee, foot) and Dante Pettis (knee) were among San Francisco's inactive players heading into Sunday's game in New Orleans, leaving the 49ers with just four active wide receivers for Week 14. 

Goodwin and Pettis were listed as questionable heading into Sunday after practicing on a limited basis Friday. None of the other inactives were much of a surprise, given the 49ers' log jam at running back and known injuries to safety Jacquiski Tartt and defensive tackle Jullian Taylor. 

[RELATED: 49ers' pass rush returns to 'fun' style of play vs. Saints]

Left tackle Joe Staley will be active for the first time since Week 9 after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured and dislocated finger. It will only be Staley's fourth game this season, as he also missed much of the season with a broken fibula. The 49ers' active-roster decisions, then, should provide Staley some cover. 

The 49ers will hope he doesn't need it against Cam Jordan and the Saints' formidable defense. 

49ers' pass rush returns to 'fun' style of play vs. Drew Brees, Saints

49ers' pass rush returns to 'fun' style of play vs. Drew Brees, Saints

NEW ORLEANS – The 49ers’ pass rush can once again be a factor this week.

The 49ers went into their Week 13 game against the Baltimore Ravens knowing they had to make some dramatic changes with their style of getting after the quarterback.

After all, they could not be so aggressive, as 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek teaches, because of the running ability of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.

On Sunday, they can get back to normal against the passing attack of the New Orleans Saints with quarterback Drew Brees.

“Those guys want to get after the quarterback,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “I know the D-line. I know their coach. It was a tough week for them. But they rose to the challenge and played those techniques very well. I thought they did a very good job against Baltimore and stopping the run.

“And now this week, you still got to stop the run. It always starts with that, but you can play a little more of those techniques you’re used to, which I know they have a lot more fun playing and I know we have a lot more fun coaching it, too.”

It certainly will not be easy for the 49ers’ pass rush to get to Brees, who has been sacked just nine times on 249 drop-backs this season. Brees gets the ball out quickly, in order to neutralize the 49ers’ pass rush of Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner and Dee Ford.

A week ago, the 49ers played a different style in an attempt to prevent big plays from Baltimore’s quarterback-driven run game. Buckner registered the team’s only sack, and that came for zero yards.

The 49ers gave up some rushing yards, but made adjustments in the second half to limit Baltimore to just three points in the final 30 minutes.

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“When you do that, you definitely have to change-up your fronts and play run-first at all times,” Shanahan said. “You got to almost play in a four-point stance and just control people instead of teeing off on guys and trying to go through them. I know last week was a frustrating week.”

The 49ers own the league's top-ranked passing defense, allowing just 134.2 yards passing per game. The 49ers rank second in the NFL with 45 sacks.