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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Aldon Smith, Incentives, and the NFL

The word on the street is that the 49ers have yet to give up on troubled defensive lineman, Aldon Smith, although Bay Area columnists are calling on the Niners to cut him loose. As many of you know, Smith was recently arrested at the LA airport for telling a TSA official that he had a bomb, and this isn't Smith's first brush with the law. It's his fourth arrest in the last couple of years, and it wouldn't be a surprise to learn that, privately, the Niners would love to let Smith go, but let's be honest: There's little or no incentive for the Niners to do so. Smith's so talented, there isn't a team in the NFL (yes, that includes the team you root for) that wouldn't consider offering him a contract, and the last thing the Niners need is for one of their rivals (e.g., the Seahawks) to sign him. In fact, aside from having him incarcerated, there's not really much at this point that the Niners can do. Much like the Baltimore Ravens felt that they couldn't afford to jettison Ray Lewis back in the day, the Niners feel that they can't afford to get rid of Smith even if they want to (which, I suspect, they do).

The only answer I see is for the NFL to flex its muscles and ban (rather than suspend) players when they step too far out of line. This will probably never happen because the players' union is far too strong. And that is why the Niners find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. They can't live with Smith and they can't live without him.

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