Offensive tackle Marvel Smith has agreed to terms with the 49ers on a two-year deal. The longtime Steeler, who lives in Los Angeles, is expected to sign his contract and join his new team for offseason workouts. The 49ers were hesitant about Smith, 30, who went to the Pro Bowl in 2004, because of the lower back injuries that have knocked him out of action the past two seasons. The 49ers have been roundly criticized for signing another tackle, Jonas Jennings, to a big-money deal in 2005. Jennings had injury issues prior to that deal and has been unable to stay healthy as a 49er. He did not take part in the team's recent minicamp and was released today. The Smith deal, however, is laced with incentives and protects the 49ers if Smith's season is cut short by injury.
"I am blessed with the opportunity the Niners have given me to come back home and play," said Smith, an Oakland native.
What does Smith's signing mean for the offensive line? When the 49ers conducted their recent minicamp, Adam Snyder, 27, was the starter at right tackle. At their next minicamp in early May, Smith likely will be the starter. If the 49ers keep Snyder at tackle, that could mean the team eventually parts ways with Barry Sims, 34, who was signed last offseason. Or the team could slide Snyder back inside to guard, where he began last season and where the 49ers are relatively thin. Starting left guard David Baas is entering his contract year, and he and the team have yet to agree on an extension.
Smith's signing also gives the team more wiggle room in next month's draft. Without a free-agent addition at tackle, the 49ers were almost certain to take one - Ole Miss's Michael Oher, Alabama's Andre Smith? - with the No. 10 pick. They still could do so, but with Marvel Smith, Sims and Snyder on the roster, they now have the leeway to go in a different direction. Marvel Smith is listed as 6-5, 325 pounds, but his actual weight is closer to 310 pounds.
-- Matt Barrows