If you have an opinion on Aldon Smith, you probably fall into one of two categories.
The first is that he's been given multiple chances by the San Francisco 49ers and the NFL, and enough is enough. The second is that the man has a problem and needs help, he doesn't need to be cast aside and left to his own devices.
If the most recent allegations turn out to be true, here's what I think: Smith has hurt the 49ers' organization for the last three seasons. The team and the front office stuck by him despite this, only to be let down again and again. Smith is lucky enough to be one of the select few who have the ability to make a very profitable living playing professional sports. He obviously doesn't care about that, or the team. It's time for San Francisco to cut ties with him for good.
Just in case you think my opinion is a little harsh, let's look at the laundry list of incidents with Smith over the past three and a half years:
- January, 2012: Arrested for DUI
- June, 2012: Charged with three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon/stabbed at a party in his home
- September, 2013: Arrested for DUI
- April, 2014: Arrested for allegedly saying the word "bomb" at LAX airport
- August 2015: Arrested for DUI, hit-and-run and vandalism (although Smith recently said no DUI was involved and the truth will come out)
Smith was forced to enter rehab and missed five games in 2013, sentenced to 12 days in jail and given probation for three years in 2014, and suspended by league for nine games that same year.
Despite all of that, it appears he still doesn't seem to get it.
Look, I don't know Smith. I don't know if he has legitimate issues with substance abuse...I don't know if he's just irresponsible...I don't know if it's a mixture of both. What I do know is that he continues to hurt the 49ers organization and is constantly putting the team in a bind. Just let him go, and do it now.
I don't want to hear that he was in great shape and ready to be a game changing pass rusher again. The truth is, he hasn't been that player in years.
From 2011 through the third game of 2013, Smith was dominant and bringing down quarterbacks at a historic pace. Over that time span, the talented outside linebacker recorded 38 sacks in 35 regular season games. He had at least one sack in 22 of those 35 games (63%).
Since then, he's played in 15 of the next 29 regular season games, and gotten to the quarterback six times. Looking deeper, he's only recorded a sack in three of those 15 games (20%), so his impact in that department has been much more sporadic than it was in the beginning of his career.
In addition, the Niners have three other capable outside linebackers ready to step in. Ahmad Brooks is in good shape and primed for a bounce back year, while Aaron Lynch will look to build off a solid first season. In 2014, Lynch ranked in the top-10 among outside linebackers from a pass rushing efficiency standpoint according to Pro Football Focus. He registered 41 total pressures in limited playing time (six sacks, eight hits, 27 hurries), giving the impression that he's more than ready for an expanded role in 2015.
The team also has rookie Eli Harold, who could wind up being a steal in the third round. He'll no doubt see his role expanded (presumably) without Smith in the fold.
We'll probably never know now what kind of player Smith could have been, which is a shame on so many levels. I really do hope that Aldon Smith the person gets help and can become a productive member of society. As far as Aldon Smith the football player...don't let the door hit you on the way out. He's had his chances and burned every bridge. A once promising career is in serious jeopardy, and it's no one's fault but his own.
Al Sacco has covered the 49ers for various sites over the years. He's been a guest on multiple podcasts and had his work used by ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY. Follow Al on Twitter @AlSacco49