On the surface, the contract looks as if it contains $16.5 million in guaranteed money. But Smith's second-year base salary of $7.5 million is fully guaranteed only if Smith remains on the 49ers' roster on April 1, 2013.
It pretty much means that the 49ers can get out of the contract following the 2012 season with only $1 million guaranteed. In reality, the 49ers committed only one year at just over $9 million to Smith.
Immediately after that news broke, San Francisco announced that they signed Josh Johnson to a two-year contract. Jim Harbaugh coached him to record numbers in college at San Diego.
Johnson had been the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back-up quarterback for the last three seasons after being selected in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL draft.
49ers general manager Trent Baalke had the following to say about the signing of Johnson.
Josh is a promising young player that has experience in our offensive system. He is a skilled athlete with good arm talent. Josh has shown promise in limited action, both as a back-up and starter at the NFL level. We are pleased to add him to our team.
We know that Jim Harbaugh loves to promote competition among his players in camp. This is one of the reasons why he is such a good head coach. We also know that the 49ers are all business when it comes to their players. They set a price for each potential acquisition and stick to it.
What does this mean for Alex Smith? Well, he is pretty much back at ground zero on a one-year deal. If he regresses as a quarterback or is injured in 2012, the 49ers have back-up plans. They are also not on the hook for anything in regards to Smith following next year.
It also means that San Francisco is fully prepared to give Colin Kaepernick competition for the No. 2 quarterback job.