The 49ers signed perhaps the most indispensable member of their defense, lineman Justin Smith, to a two-year contract extension Wednesday. The new deal makes him a 49er through the 2015 season.
"Justin's All-Pro contributions on the field, as well as his leadership on and off the field, are integral to our success," general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. "Justin consistently sets a standard of excellence. This contract allows Justin to finish his career as a 49er."
Indeed, Smith last year said he figured he had "three or four years" left in his career. Smith, 33, joined the 49ers as a free agent in 2008 and likely will go down as one of the franchise's best free-agent acquisitions ever. In 2011, he paired with then-rookie Aldon Smith to form one of the most fearsome pass-rush combinations in the NFL, one that helped get the 49ers to the NFC championship game.
Last year, Justin Smith tore his left triceps tendon in Week 15, and the 49ers defense suffered without him at full strength. Smith had surgery in February and is expected to rejoin practice at the start of training camp.
A week ago, Smith said he was not concerned about entering the season on the final year of his contract. "You really can't forecast anything out past the year you're in," he said. "So I'm thinking about 2013, and 2013 only. At this point in my career, nothing's a given, nothing's a guarantee. They don't like old guys, anyway, for football. I'm going to enjoy this year and do the best I can this year and hopefully it's enough for us and the team and we get it done."
The 49ers drafted defensive end Tank Carradine in the second round and defensive lineman Quinton Dial in the fifth round this year ostensibly to replace Smith at some point. Neither player, however, has been able to practice thus far and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said recently that he didn't expect them to be ready for the start of training camp.
Smith had been represented by Creative Artist's Agency but recently parted ways with the firm. Evidently he negotiated this deal himself.
-- Matt Barrows