Two years after signing Torrey Smith to a five-year free-agent contract, the 49ers are parting ways with the speedy wideout on the eve of free agency.
Smith had the two most disappointing years of his career with the 49ers. Last year he caught just 20 passes for 267 yards and missed the final four games with a concussion. News of Smith’s release was first reported on Twitter by former NFL wide receiver Steve Smith, who now works for the NFL Network.
News of Smith’s release comes on the heels of the 49ers adding receiver Jeremy Kerley to a three-year deal. While Smith languished — and complained about quarterbacks misfiring on passes — last season, Kerley had the finest year of his career. His deal was met with praise by tackle Joe Staley, the team’s de facto offensive captain.
“So pumped that @JKerley11 has signed back with the @49ers,” Staley wrote on Twitter. “He is a great teammate and will be a big reason why we turn the team around!!”
Smith was due to count nearly $9.5 million against the 49ers’ salary cap, the third highest mark after Staley and linebacker NaVorro Bowman. The 49ers already had $90 million in salary cap, the second-most cushion next to the Cleveland Browns. Smith signed a five-year contract worth as much as $40 million in 2015. It was the highest free-agent deal ever granted by former general manager Trent Baalke.
When free agency begins Thursday, the 49ers are expected to aggressively pursue wide receivers, including Rams free agent Kenny Britt, 28, who had the first 1,000-yard receiving season of his career in 2016.
Meanwhile, various reports have linked the 49ers to Browns wideout Terrelle Pryor and to Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery. Cleveland.com wrote that the 49ers, Eagles, Browns, Steelers and Titans will be among the teams in the market for Pryor, 27, who converted from quarterback to receiver in 2015 and who last year surpassed 1,000 receiving yards on a team that, like the Rams, had a shaky situation at quarterback.
The 49ers also are looking at Jeffery, two sources said, but perhaps not at the rate — $14-$15 million per season — the big Bears receiver is hoping to see on the open market. One source felt the 49ers either would bow out before the bidding reached that point or that Chicago would retain Jeffery at a lower rate.
Several other free-agent receivers could tempt the 49ers, especially Washington free agent Pierre Garcon, who had his best season in 2013 when 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was his offensive coordinator.
Shanahan made it clear that he wanted to bolster the position, which was arguable the league’s worst last year.
“We’re going to add as many as we can to help our roster and we also want to add some competition, because we feel the more competition we have in OTAs, the more competition you have in training camp,” he said at the scouting combine. ” If you end up cutting some people at the end of training camp who you think can play in the NFL, then that shows that your organization’s going the right direction. That’s really our goal.”