Starting LBs Now Complete- 03/23/2001
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The 49ers have come to terms with free-agent linebacker Derek Smith formerly of the Washington Redskins. Smith is twenty-six, 6'2" and played last season at 243 lbs. He was drafted out of Arizona State four years ago by the 'Skins in the third round with the eightieth overall pick. In his three years he has proven to be a very reliable and injury free player starting sixty-one of sixty-four games.

Prior to the 1999 season, Smith played at the right-side linebacker position, but shifted into the middle at the beginning of the '99 season. Smith made the adjustment quite well recording 127 tackles with 83 solos. In 2000, Smith recorded 89 tackles and 72 solos. While these numbers are down from previous years, it must be considered that the Skins defense changed dynamically over those years, and that these numbers surpass the 49ers linebackers Ken Norton Jr., and Winfred Tubbs who were both released earlier this season.

Smith brings a great dimension to the 49ers. He's an athletic linebacker with a nose for the ball. He is extremely effective as a run stopper and comes to the 49ers with a five year contract expected to be worth only about two million per season. The signing of Smith couldn't of come at a better time. The team has been searching desperately for a third starting linebacker to play next to last years draftees Julian Peterson and Jeff Ulbrich. Smith should be their man. His ability to play both inside and outside will allow the 49ers to do a number of things, including using Julian Peterson as a pass rusher.

The move also means that the 49ers will not have to draft a linebacker with their ninth overall pick. However, if Dan Morgan is still available at this spot, he won't be ruled out. Rather the team can look for a defensive end first, then a running back and then a backup linebacker. This flexibility should allow the 49es more maneuverability on draft day. The team now does not have to reach to get a line backer.

Smith comes to the 49ers in time to participate in all the mini-camps and training camp. He should be a real part of this team by the time the season begins. This is especially important with such a young defense, and for a player who is used to being a leader. He will have the time to gain the respect of the players on the 49ers, and should be a valuable addition to this team.

Talk about it in the 49ers Paradise Forum

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