OT Smith, 49ers agree to deal

Updated: March 30, 2009, 11:40 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Free agent offensive tackle Marvel Smith, the former Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl standout who was limited by back problems to only 17 appearances the past two seasons, has agreed on a multiyear contract with the San Francisco 49ers.

Details of the contract, confirmed by sources close to Smith, were not yet available. But in a deal that protects the 49ers if Smith suffers further back problems, not nine-year veteran can earn more than $10 million, if he is healthy for the first two seasons of the contract.

Because of his physical woes, Smith, who underwent surgery for a herniated disk, was released by the Steelers this spring.

Smith, 30, will have a chance to continue his NFL career in his native Bay Area. He is an Oakland native and twice earned all-city honors while playing for that city's Skyline High School.

A nine-year veteran, Smith could solve the 49ers' longtime problem at right tackle if he is healthy. Although he has played most of his career at left tackle, San Francisco has projected him as its starting right tackle.

The 49ers used three different starters at the position last season.

The 49ers on Friday released eight-year veteran tackle Jonas Jennings, who started two games in 2008 and whose four-year career in San Francisco was marred by injury.

Jennings was the first major free agent signing of former coach Mike Nolan's tenure in 2005, leaving the Buffalo Bills for a seven-year, $36 million deal. But the lineman played in just 23 of the 49ers' 64 games, finishing three of his four seasons on injured reserve.

Jennings would have made $4.2 million in base salary during the upcoming season. The 49ers told him to stay away from their minicamp earlier this month while they worked out the details of releasing him.

Smith, an outstanding pass blocker, was named to the AFC Pro Bowl squad in 2004. The former Arizona State star entered the league as Pittsburgh's second-round choice in 2000.

During his career, Smith has appeared in 111 games, with 108 starts. He has played all 16 games in four different seasons. A chronic back problem, however, limited Smith to just 17 games in 2007-2008. He finished the 2008 season on injured reserve.

Several teams have shown interest in Smith since his release, and he visited with 49ers' coaches and officials last week. Part of that visit was a physical examination, and Smith was deemed healthy enough to pursue.

His agent, Kenny Zuckerman, said that his client was healthy by the end of the season and could have played in Super Bowl XLIII had he not been on the injured reserve list.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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