Reggie Smith, who for a short period last year figured to be the 49ers' starter at free safety, signed with the Panthers, the team announced today. Smith was a third-round pick out of Oklahoma in 2008.
When training camp began last year Smith lined up with the first-string defense, and he appeared to be the heir to then-free agent Dashon Goldson's position. Goldson, however, unexpectedly returned to the team on a one-year contract. His return coincided with a knee injury to Smith. Goldson stepped into his former starting role, and Smith again was limited to a backup role during the season.
According to a source, Smith, an unrestricted free agent, told the 49ers in his exit interview in January that he was not interested in returning to the team, presumably because he knew his chances of starting were slim with Goldson on the roster. The 49ers made Goldson their franchise player, although he has yet to sign the tender. The top three safeties for 2012 appear to be Goldson, strong safety Donte Whitner and C.J. Spillman. Madieu Williams, who also is a free agent, could return.
Smith's departure means there is one fewer member of the 49ers' dubious 2008 draft class. The most productive member of that clas, receiver Joshua Morgan, signed with the Redskins last month. Two others, guard Chilo Rachal and linebacker Larry Grant, are free agents. Grant, a restricted free agent, probably will be back.
2008 draft class
Rd 1 DE Kentwan Balmer
Rd 2 G Chilo Rachal
Rd 3 S Reggie Smith
Rd 4 C Cody Wallace
Rd 5 pick forfeited for tampering
Rd 6 WR Joshua Morgan
Rd 7 LB Larry Grant
-- Matt Barrows