SANTA CLARA -- Aldon Smith's availability might be uncertain for this coming season, but his 2015 contract status will be clearing up soon.

The 49ers have until 9 p.m. Friday to exercise a $9.754 million option that would extend Smith's contract for 2015.

Although legal issues cast a cloud on Smith's future, at least one NFL front-office executive expects the 49ers to pick up Smith's option, which is guaranteed only if he sustains an injury during the 2014 season.

That executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, says the option simply "protects your interests," adding that Smith is a healthy, productive player. If Smith continues to produce -- he has tallied a staggering 42 sacks in 43 regular-season games -- he'll command much more money on the open market in 2015.

The overriding rationale: With that $9.754 million not fully guaranteed until March 11, 2015, the 49ers have time to adjust pending what happens with Smith's off-field issues.

Several league sources told CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora that they also think the 49ers will exercise Smith's option.

General manager Trent Baalke strongly indicated last week he wants Smith to stay put beyond 2015.

A long-term extension seemed more likely, however, before Smith got arrested for an alleged drunken-driving accident last September that sparked his six-week stay at a treatment facility.

Then came his April 16 arrest at LAX on suspicion of making a false bomb threat; charges have yet to be filed by the Los Angeles City Attorney's office.


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After the LAX arrest, a league source said the 49ers were "very unlikely" to exercise Smith's option, according to Bay Area News Group columnist Tim Kawakami.

Because the 2015 salary is guaranteed only if he's injured under the 49ers supervision -- and not on his own accord -- the team should not be concerned how the option might be viewed in the court of public opinion, according to a front-office executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The 49ers could also take out insurance on the 2015 salary in case Smith does get hurt.

Smith, 24, has been participating in the 49ers' offseason training program that began April 21.

If Smith is shelved in 2014 by a league- or team-imposed suspension (or by a non-football-injury designation), his 2015 rights might be retained at this year's $2.34 million salary, according to the Sacramento Bee.

"It's fine as long as the production outweighs the drama, but once the drama outweighs the production -- and all your time is dedicated to one guy -- that's when you need to sit down and ask yourself if it's worth it," ESPN analyst Herm Edwards recently told this newspaper.

Smith could also be released at any time if the 49ers choose. But that seems unlikely considering his undeniable talent. He had 3½ sacks last postseason, including a fumble-forcing sack on the first snap of the NFC Championship game loss at Seattle.

Like other 2011 first-round draft picks, Smith (No. 7 overall) received a four-year contract that fell in line with the league's rookie salary scale and included a team option for 2015.

A similar option remains in the contract of backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who was acquired in a March trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Gabbert (No. 10 overall) would merit a $14.67 million salary in 2015 if his option gets picked up, which is unexpected. Wide receiver Jon Baldwin, the 26th overall selection in 2011 by the Kansas City Chiefs, had his 2015 option removed when the 49ers restructured his contract in February and dropped his 2014 salary from $1.4 million to $645,000.

Ross Tucker, a former NFL player-turned-media analyst, is a big proponent in picking up the fifth-year option. "There's no reason not to pick it up," Tucker wrote for The Sporting News, "unless the player has been a huge disappointment or the team doesn't even want to take on the very small risk that a player suffers such a devastating injury, that it puts the team on the hook for his 2015 salary."

Smith's next court date is May 12, for a status conference that is typical in similar Santa Clara County Superior Court cases, according to prosecutor Brian Buckelew. Smith is represented by San Carlos attorney Josh Bentley and is not required to appear in court on the 12th.

Staff writer Tracey Kaplan contributed to this report.