Smith expected to join Willis in retirement

Defensive end Justin Smith is expecting to retire, according to a report, adding to a tumultuous few days for the 49ers.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Frank Gore, Patrick Willis, and now Justin Smith?

Smith, 35, will reportedly retire instead of coming back for a 15th season, according to a report from CSN Bay Area. The news comes just hours after reports surfaced of All-Pro inside linebacker Patrick Willis electing to end his playing career. Smith had been mulling retirement since the end of the regular season.

Sunday, multiple outlets were reporting the team's all-time leading rusher Gore would be heading to the Eagles via free agency.

Smith had one year and $6.437 left on his contract. But arm, shoulder and back injuries have slowed him down significantly over the last three seasons. In 2011, Smith was a defensive player of the year candidate and first-team All-Pro during the 49ers' revival under former coach Jim Harbaugh, when the team reached the NFC Championship game before falling in overtime the New York Giants.

Smith, like Willis, has been a regular working out at the team's Santa Clara headquarters this offseason.

"Justin’s come around to bust my chops. That’s the way he does things," new head coach and Smith's former position coach Jim Tomsula said at the scouting combine.

"What we usually do with Justin, me personally for the last three or four years, you all know the respect I have for him amongst other guys but we’re talking about Justin. He’s earned the right to make decisions on his terms. The guy’s had just an unbelievable career. He’s brought so much to everybody he’s been around, that he’s worked with and for and alongside. So, out of respect for Justin, I’ve told him that I will not try to talk him into anything and I will not try to talk him out of anything. He has earned the right to make his decision on his terms. But, we’ve said that for the last three or four years. I usually get with Justin after the Combine and when we get back. That’s usually when he and I usually shoot the bologna.”

The 49ers recently signed 33-year-old free agent Darnell Dockett, who will likely start in place of Smith next season. Ray McDonald, a starter alongside Smith for the last four seasons, was released in December.

Next story:

Willis contemplating retirement

E-mail Niners Digest:

Follow Editor-in-Chief Chris Biderman on Twitter.

Get updates from Niners Digest by following here and become a subscriber to receive access to premium content and analysis.

Niners Digest Top Stories