10 Biggest Winners and Losers of Alex Smith to 49ers

Vincent Frank@VincentFrankNFLCorrespondent IMarch 21, 2012

10 Biggest Winners and Losers of Alex Smith to 49ers

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    This was coming all along. Right? There was absolutely no way that Alex Smith was going to leave the San Francisco 49ers. In reality, they were attached at the hip, for better or worse.

    Then came the stunning news that the 49ers were finalists in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. Smith took his "talents" to South Beach in order to gauge the Miami Dolphins' interest in his services.

    A marriage that had been through a tremendous amount of ups and downs appeared to be ending in a blink of an eye. For the 49ers, it was all about business and getting to that "elite" level. For Smith, it was a little bit more personal.

    Ultimately, Manning chose the Denver Broncos as his next destination. This put Smith and the 49ers back at ground zero.

    Today, it was announced that the two have come to an agreement on a three-year contract. While the fallout of Smith returning to San Francisco is nowhere near as big as Manning's decision, it does have a dramatic impact on the balance of power in the NFC West and throughout the conference.

    This article is going to give you 10 winners and losers from Smith's decision to return to the 49ers for 2012 and beyond.

Winner: Jim Harbaugh

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    It was definitely a risk for the San Francisco 49ers to go after Peyton Manning. After all, their current quarterback was a free agent. This could have ended disastrously for the young head coach.

    If Manning decided against going to the 49ers, which ended up being the case, there might have been a breakdown of chemistry and continuity in the locker room.

    Alex Smith might have felt so abandoned by his head coach that he would make the decision to leave San Francisco. In this scenario, the 49ers would have been left without any substantial possibilities in the free-agent market and two unproven quarterbacks on their roster.

    In reality, it could have backfired a great deal.

    San Francisco hedged their bets that Manning would ultimately choose to come to this up-and-coming team. That risk obviously didn't pay off.

    However, they had a back-up plan in the form of Smith. Taking another risk, Harbaugh and Co. assumed that Smith would be content to come back to the bay after their flirtation with Manning.

    Well, this gamble paid off.

Loser: Colin Kaepernick

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    Colin Kaepernick was next in line to be the San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback if they failed to retain Alex Smith.

    The 2011 second-round pick is nowhere near ready to play at a championship level. However, he is a better alternative than the names that were being bandied about yesterday, Vince Young and Josh Johnson.

    Now that Smith has re-signed with the 49ers for a reported $16.5 million guaranteed, Kapernick will have to ride the pine for at least the next two seasons before being given a shot.

    There is absolutely no way San Francisco pays Smith that guaranteed money over the course of just one season.

    While fellow second-round pick Andy Dalton started with the Cincinnati Bengals immediately, Kaepernick might actually have to wait until his fourth season to get a shot.

    He is a major loser in this whole situation.

Winner: Matt Moore

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    The Miami Dolphins brought in a slew of free-agent quarterbacks in an attempt to upgrade from Matt Moore. They ended up with David Garrard, who missed the entire 2011 season due to injury.

    Say what you want about Alex Smith, but he would have been almost guaranteed to start for the Dolphins over Moore.

    The same cannot be said for Garrard. In coming to this conclusion, you just have to look at the contract possibilities for the two aforementioned players.

    Garrard received just over $3 million over the course of one season, not exactly starter money, while Alex Smith would have been looking at about $8 million per season.

    Moore is a stop-gap quarterback for Miami at this point, but should be the starter heading into the 2012 season. The same would not have been the case if Smith chose to go there.

Loser: Seattle Seahawks and the NFC West

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    While it would have even been more disastrous for the NFC West if Peyton Manning chose to go to the San Francisco 49ers, this scenario isn't too great for them either.

    The best scenario for those teams attempting to catch up to the 49ers would have been for Smith to go elsewhere and the 49ers to be stuck with Colin Kaepernick or another unproven quarterback.

    The Seattle Seahawks think they got a major upgrade with the addition of Matt Flynn. Considering that the young quarterback has started just a couple NFL games, this remains to be seen.

    The 49ers know what they have in Smith. He is the quarterback that led them to the NFC Championship Game last season while running away with the division at about the halfway point of the regular year.

Winner: Vernon Davis and the 49ers Receivers

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    There is no doubt that the 49ers offense would have been much more scary if Peyton Manning was throwing the ball to this rebuilt unit in 2012.

    With that said, there is something to say about continuity. Vernon Davis and Alex Smith clicked a great deal as the 2011 season came to an end, most notably in the postseason. Now, they have a full training camp under Harbaugh to get a better understanding of the nuances of his offensive scheme.

    The idea of an inexperienced Colin Kaepernick throwing balls to this talented group would have been a question mark at best.

    Now, San Francisco has the talent for Smith to throw to on the outside. Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss and Mario Manningham should be elated.

Loser: Miami Dolphins Fans

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    While I am pretty sure that Miami Dolphins fans weren't drooling over the possibility of Alex Smith coming to their team, the alternative seems to be much worse at this point.

    I am not saying that David Garrard wasn't a good signing. He is a quarterback that has played pretty well throughout his career.

    Missing out on Smith, as well as Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn, does put the Dolphins in a precarious situation.

    They are probably going to have to reach for a quarterback like Ryan Tannehill in the first round of April's NFL draft.

    After all, this is a franchise that needs a long-term solution to the quarterback situation. While Smith wouldn't have necessarily provided them with that, he would have enabled the Dolphins to wait on selecting a quarterback until next season.

    That isn't the case anymore, and Dolphins fans cannot be too happy about that.

Winner: San Francisco 49ers

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    The San Francisco 49ers were an overtime loss away from heading to the Super Bowl last season. They did so with a watered-down playbook due to a shortened offseason and a lackluster group of wide receivers.

    They added Randy Moss and Mario Manningham at receiver, which changes the entire dynamics of the offense. Couple that with an entire offseason of organized team activities as well as mini-camps, and this offense could be dangerous in 2012.

    The ultimate prize was Peyton Manning, and San Francisco knew that. They had an understanding that he could make them the clear-cut favorites to win the Super Bowl next season. This is why the 49ers brass flew to Durham last week to meet with the future Hall-of-Fame quarterback.

    With that said, they also have an understanding that this team would be one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl even if Manning chose against coming to San Francisco.

    Alex Smith gives the 49ers that opportunity. Other options on the roster or in free agency wouldn't have.

Loser: The Rest of the NFC

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    If Alex Smith had decided against returning to the San Francisco 49ers, the rest of the NFC would be jumping up and down in happiness.

    In reality, there would have been one less team in contention for a conference crown if the 49ers were shut out of both the Manning and Smith "sweepstakes."

    Now, the 49ers return all 11 starters on defense, have upgraded a great deal at the receiver position and have some money to add more cogs to an already-elite roster.

    Considering how close San Francisco was to capturing the NFC Championship last season when all indicators pointed against it, you could make a strong argument that they are now favorites to win the conference.

    Alex Smith almost guaranteed that today.

Winner: Alex Smith

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    The San Francisco 49ers were Alex Smith's only shot of succeeding in 2012 and beyond. This is why it became apparent that he would return home if Peyton Manning chose another team.

    After spending a half-decade existing in mediocrity and playing marginal football, Smith became one of the biggest surprises in the entire National Football League under Jim Harbaugh last season.

    He broke some long-standing franchise records while leading the 49ers to a berth in the NFC Championship Game.

    The marriage between Smith and his head coach seemed to be a perfect union. You had a reclamation project behind center and a "quarterback guru" leading him.

    The results were astonishing.

    Now, imagine Smith choosing to go to the Miami Dolphins. This is a team that just traded their only major threat on the outside and was in absolute shambles during the offseason. He would have been asked to play in an offense that doesn't suit his abilities and would have struggled a great deal in doing so.

    Smith is an intelligent guy; this is why he chose to return to the 49ers.

Loser: Jeff Ireland and Stephen Ross

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    With all due respect to Alex Smith, it is pretty bad when your team is his back-up plan. This is exactly the situation that the Miami Dolphins found themselves in over the weekend.

    Smith visited South Beach with two things in mind.

    First, to gain some negotiating power over the San Francisco 49ers. The end result of that move remains to be seen.

    Second, to find a suitor in case Peyton Manning chose to come to San Francisco.

    Either way, the Dolphins were never a viable option for the up-and-coming quarterback.

    Instead, he used Jeff Ireland and Stephen Ross like a really bad pinata at a Cuban birthday party. Miami is quickly becoming the dark hole upon which horrible teams attempt to climb out of, pretty much the antithesis of how the 49ers are currently operating. 

    This is a franchise that has a heralded history of success, but continues to descend down towards the abyss of the league to a point where they are becoming a laughingstock.

    There is something fishy going on in Miami, and it is the Dolphins.