Justin Smith will have offseason surgery, but isn't ready to hang em up just yet
"I'm not going to retire after this year," Smith said. "I would like to come back and try to get to (the Super Bowl) again."
Smith, a 33-year old, 12-year veteran, was one of the best defensive linemen in the league this season. He graded out as Pro Football Focus' fifth best 3-4 defensive end, and his impact on the 49ers' defense was evident when he missed time with his triceps injury towards the end of the regular season.
While he's not ready to retire just yet, he does not want to become one of those veterans who hangs around as a role player. "I realize my career is definitely winding down," Smith explained. "I'm not saying I'm going to play another eight years or something like that. I want to play at a high level."
If Smith wanted to play another eight years, he probably could - just not as the dominant force he was in 2012. "I don't want to be a backup guy - a mentor guy," he said.
The 49ers will be thrilled to have Smith back in 2013, but the fact that he's addressing his retirement suggests that it won't be too far down the road. It appears that as soon as he is no longer a commander of double-teams who dominates the trenches, he'll be packing his bags and putting an end to his career before he becomes a benchwarmer.
Despite the surgery, Smith should be ready for training camp, when he'll prepare for the final year of his current contract. Could it also be the final year of his NFL tenure? Possibly. It all depends how effective he is at age 34 next season. My best guess is that he'll end up signing a short contract, possibly a one-year deal, after his current contract is finished - probably with the 49ers.