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Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports


Free Agent Profile: Preston Smith

Matthew Barr
Feb 15, 2019 at 12:00 PM



The EDGE position being one of need for the San Francisco 49ers is no secret. Since Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch took over the franchise in 2017, the position has not been properly addressed. Late-round draft picks, fringe free agency signings and holdovers from the previous regimes have populated the depth chart on the exterior of the defensive line. As it stands right now, the depth chart is a "who's who" of "who?" Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh's defensive scheme requires consistent pressure on the quarterback to relieve stress from his oft-injured and young secondary. Outside of DT DeForest Buckner logging 12.0 sacks on the season, no other 49ers' defender eclipsed 6.0 sacks.

When NFL Free Agency officially opens on March 13, John Lynch and Co. will have plenty of options available to them. The team needs to finally address the position through both the draft and free agency. While some of the bigger names will receive exorbitant contract extensions or the franchise tag from their respective teams, a bevy of talent will be obtainable by the highest bidder. Enter Preston Smith.

Smith, the 38th overall pick in the 2015 Draft out of Mississippi State, completed his fourth season with the Washington Redskins in 2018. His numbers do not immediately jump off the page as he registered only 4.0 sacks and 53 tackles, however, his play greatly exceeds his numbers. Smith's 76.9 grade from PFF was good enough to rank as the 19th best EDGE defender in the league last season and his 16 QB hits would have been second on the 49ers to Buckner. His 6'5" 265lb frame would fill in the all-important LEO position in Saleh's defense. The LEO, in particular, has been difficult for the 49ers to find the correct player to slot in. Solomon Thomas, Arik Armstead and Cassius Marsh have all been tested but the test resembled trying to stick a square peg in a round hole.

Injuries have also plagued the 49ers' defense over the past two seasons. The 26-year-old Smith has never missed a game in his career, including three consecutive years as a full-time starter. On top of his durability, Smith has shown the ability to create turnovers with four career interceptions, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. In 2018, he alone would have led the 49ers defense with two takeaways. For a squad desperately looking to upgrade its turnover margin, Smith's ability off the edge would be an instant upgrade.

The DeMarcus Lawrences, Dee Fords and Jadeveon Clowneys of the world may dominate headlines and find themselves atop many fans' wish lists but Preston Smith could be one of the missing pieces for the 49ers defense. Under the tutelage of DL Coach Jim Tomsula and surrounded with talent along the Redskins defensive front, Smith turned in the best year of his career in 2018. With Kris Kocurek taking the reins of the 49ers DL and the ability to play alongside Buckner, Armstead, Thomas and Ronald Blair III, Smith could emerge as a force to be reckoned with in red and gold.
  • Matthew Barr
  • Written by:
    Matthew Barr has been writing for 49ers Webzone and 49ers Hub since 2018 and co-hosts the 4th and Gold podcast which can be found on all podcast platforms. He can be found on Twitter fighting an endless battle to get the underscore removed from his handle, @MattBarr_.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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