NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Thursday that Smith converted the guarantee into monthly roster bonuses beginning in April, according to a source who has seen the deal. He is willing to bet on himself and earn the salary as he goes.
Under the old deal, his pay would have come during the season. Now, his first payment comes much sooner. It's a one-year deal, which both sides hope will turn into an extension, per Rapoport. Smith is set to become a free agent after the 2015 season.
The specific reason for the restructure remains unclear, but it would allow the 49ers to cut the linebacker at any point and save cash.
"It wasn't like they said, 'If you don't do this, you're cut,'" Smith's agent Doug Hendrickson told Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area about the deal. "The thought behind it is that Aldon realizes he's been his own worst enemy. He has come a long way since he was suspended. Ultimately his goal, my goal, and the team's goal is for him to sign a long-term contract with the Niners. ...
"He's basically saying, 'I'm willing to bet on myself.'"
Smith was suspended for the first nine games of the 2014 season for violating the NFL's policy on personal conduct and substances of abuse.
Without into getting into wild speculation about the reason Smith would give up the security of a $9.75 million guaranteed for cash in near future and uncertainty of monthly bonuses, it's an interesting move for a pending free agent with a history of trouble. Perhaps this is Smith's way of showing good faith and attempting to prove he can be trusted with a new lucrative, long-term deal.