Aldon Smith has played in just 18 of a possible 32 regular-season games the past two seasons, spending time in rehab in 2013 and serving a league-mandated nine-game suspension to begin last year.
Entering the final year of his deal, which is scheduled to pay him $9.754 million in 2015, the one-time All-Pro outside linebacker agreed to a restructuring of his contract Thursday.
Smith's salary, which would have become guaranteed on the first day of the new league year Tuesday, now will be converted into a series of non-guaranteed bonuses that would add up to the salary if he meets the requirements, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Smith, it should be noted, did not take a pay cut. Rather, he agreed to earn his salary with good behavior throughout the season. As such, the move offers no salary-cap relief for the Niners.
"He's basically saying, 'I'm willing to bet on myself that I will not do anything stupid,'" Smith's agent, Doug Hendrickson, told CSNBayArea.com.
"The thought behind it is that Aldon realizes he's been his own worst enemy. He has come a long way since he was suspended. ... Ultimately his goal, my goal and the team's goal is for him to sign a long-term contract with the Niners."
Niners general manager Trent Baalke was asked about Smith last month at the NFL scouting combine.
"A lot of people haven't had the pleasure of meeting Aldon," Baalke said. "A great young man. He's had some off-the-field adversity, some personal adversity that he's trying to deal with and is dealing with. But, if you've ever had an opportunity to meet him, I think you'd feel how most of us feel, a tremendous young man."
According to CSNBayArea.com, the newly constructed contract will kick in next month, and Smith could make about $2 million before the season, with the rest coming through roster bonuses during the 17-week season.
Smith was listed as an "average" player for the Niners in a recent ESPN.com NFL Nation/Pro Football Focus project after registering just two sacks in seven 2014 games.