Smith spent the first seven seasons of his career with the 49ers after they made him the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL draft. He was traded to Kansas City in 2013 for two draft picks.
“I knew, for sure, some of those defensive players we wouldn’t be able to keep around, just contract-wise and years-wise, like Dashon (Goldson) and Justin (Smith),” Smith said to the San Jose Mercury News. “You knew some of that wasn’t going to last forever. We weren’t going to be able to hold it altogether from a cap standpoint and the years standpoint. You knew that was going to change.”
The off-season exodus started with coach Jim Harbaugh, who left the team with one season on his contract. He was hired as the head coach at the University of Michigan after the 49ers' regular season ended.
The 49ers' off-season includes departures from Frank Gore, Mike Iupati, Michael Crabtree and Chris Culliver, who all left via free agency; and also the retirements of linebackers Patrick Willis, Chris Borland, defensive tackle Justin Smith and offensive lineman Anthony Davis.
Just 15 players, including seven starters, remain on the team that lost Super Bowl XLVII to the Baltimore Ravens.
“There’s a ton of turnover everywhere,” Smith said. “I’d be interested to see what the league average is. I’m sure it’s a lot. It’s more than people realize, I think.”
Smith, 31, completed 65% of his passes in 2014 for 3,265 yards with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions.
- Scooby Axson