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2012 NFL Free Agents: Alex Smith's Next Stop If Manning Goes to the 49ers

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 22:  Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers takes the field during player introductions against the New York Giants during the NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park on January 22, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Nick DeWittAnalyst IMarch 17, 2012

The news Friday that Peyton Manning had worked out for the San Francisco 49ers had to be a bit of a blow to the guy who just led them to the NFC Championship Game this past January: Alex Smith.

Fresh off a breakout season in San Francisco that's been in the making for the better part of the last half-decade, Mr. Smith may be going somewhere (although probably not to Washington).

With the 49ers representing an excellent and interesting option for Manning and Smith a free agent, it's time to take a look at some potential landing spots for the guy who, after Matt Flynn, will be the most accomplished remaining free agent with starter-caliber upside.

The loser of the Flynn sweepstakes (either Miami or Seattle, if you look at the recent reports) could certainly get involved, although I think Miami might shy away if they can't get Flynn. They could just as easily go for a Ryan Tannehill in the draft after that.

Seattle is an interesting proposition. They're a young team that seems to be building a 49ers-type team in the Pacific Northwest. They have a budding defense and a good running game led by the recently re-signed Marshawn Lynch. They have budding talent at receiver too.

Failing that, a team like the New York Jets could make a play. They just signed Drew Stanton, but that doesn't mean they won't jump at the chance to get someone to push starter Mark Sanchez (and replace him if he falls flat on his face).

Would the Arizona Cardinals do a deal after they paid Kevin Kolb a big roster bonus today? Probably not. Scratch them off the list.

Denver? They seem to be intent on acquiring someone to either compete with or supplant Tim Tebow. Smith could do that, although I'm not sure if he fits in Denver's offensive system.

Smith could sign a one-year deal somewhere like Washington and mentor their draft pick (likely Robert Griffin III) and build his value with another good season. The problem is that Washington isn't exactly cut out to nurture his talent and image.

It should be interesting if the 49ers land Manning. It could have a ripple effect like we discussed above. That would be quite the signing.

One thing is for sure: Alex Smith can and should land on his feet wherever he goes.

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