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49ers haven’t decided to pick up the fifth-year option on Aldon Smith

Aldon Smith

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith practices at an NFL football training camp in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)


By all accounts and appearances, 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith decided at the wrong time in the worst place to be a wiseacre.

And now the 49ers have to decide what to do. It’s extremely unlikely they’d cut him, because he’d be gobbled up on waivers -- possibly by another team in the division. Because Smith arrived via the first round of the 2011 draft, the 49ers have to decide by May 3 whether to exercise the fifth-year option on Smith’s rookie contract.

Per a league source with knowledge of the situation, the 49ers haven’t decided to exercise the option. They’ll be discussing the question in the coming days and weeks, and they have less than three weeks to resolve the issue. The analysis will entail further homework regarding Smith’s off-field issues, especially since the obvious question that arises from Smith’s decision (allegedly) to joke about a bomb with a TSA agent is whether Smith was under the influence of alcohol, or something else.

Smith spent an extended stretch in rehab last year, after being arrested behind the wheel of his car while allegedly intoxicated on a Friday, hours before practice and two days before a game. And then there are pending felony gun charges, for which Smith will soon be back in court.

If the 49ers don’t use the option, it could wake Smith up. But then the 49ers would have only one franchise tag to use in 2015, and possibly two guys who merit it: Aldon Smith and Colin Kaepernick.

Either way, it’s been a challenging week for the 49ers. And it will get no easier as they try to figure out what to do with a player who has racked up 42 sacks in 43 regular-season games.