San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke is probably to the point where he just assumes it is bad news whenever his cell phone rings at an awkward time of day, given the way the offseason has gone. The latest incident involves troubled star Aldon Smith, who was arrested and charged with a false report of a bomb threat at the Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday.
The team has a decision to make on Smith regarding the fifth-year option on his rookie contract, and the most recent episode probably doesn't help his cause too much. NFL Media insider Albert Breer tweeted Monday that despite the news the 49ers brass could still wind up bringing Smith back as they see how things play out.
It seems pretty clear that San Francisco will be, at the very least, looking to draft an insurance policy for Smith when the 2014 NFL Draft rolls around. With six picks in the top 100, the team has plenty of opportunities.
One player who could be in the mix for the club in the first round is Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence. The draft doesn't have a ton of high-end edge rushers, but Lawrence has a case that he's right there with a group of players who could go late on the first day like Kony Ealy and Dee Ford. In a case of good timing that couldn't be planned, the Sacramento Bee reported Monday that the 49ers will actually be bringing Lawrence in for a visit next week.
Like Smith, Lawrence has the speed and length to be a standout defensive end but would probably wind up playing linebacker in San Francisco's system. He racked up 34 tackles for loss and 20 sacks over the past two seasons for the Broncos and looks like the athletic, rangy player that Smith was coming out of college. He isn't as strong as others at his spot, so that will certainly be a concern for some teams as he looks to take on much more athletic tackles in the NFL.
Lawrence ran through linebacker drills at his pro day and will probably have to show teams even more during private workouts that he's flexible enough to be moved around the front seven. His stock is on the rise because of his upside, and NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah believes he'll go solidly in the 30's during the draft -- right in the 49ers' range.
Though Lawrence's talent is evident, Baalke and company probably would want more background information on him if he ends up in the team's draft plans. Lawrence was suspended three times during his career at Boise State for violations of team rules, and that could be a big enough red flag that causes the team to pass as they look for options to back up an already troubled player.
Recent NFL.com mock drafts have San Francisco going a variety of routes with its first-round selection, including cornerback Darqueze Dennard, receiver Brandin Cooks and defensive tackle Ra'shede Hageman. Could the latest news about Smith change the team's plans? That's for the front office to sort out in the coming weeks before the draft, but Lawrence might represent a good option if the 49ers need somebody who can fill Smith's spot on the field next season.