There are a number of playoff contenders who should consider San Francisco 49ers veteran Alex Smith as a candidate for their starting quarterback job in 2013.
Smith is the type of player who can manage a team very well and help get it to the next level—from being a playoff contender to becoming a real threat to win the Super Bowl.
Here are a few playoff contender's teams who should have interest in Smith over the next few months.
Thanks to Adrian Peterson's MVP-caliber season, the Minnesota Vikings are still in the NFC playoff race, which isn't something many people expected following the team's 3-13 season in 2011.
The Vikings selected current starting quarterback Christian Ponder in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft, but he still hasn't proven that he is the long-term answer at the position.
Minnesota still ranks last in passing offense, and this lack of balance on offense has hurt them against some of the league's best teams this season.
A quarterback like Smith would make the Minnesota offense more difficult to defend, because opposing defenses wouldn't be able to focus on Peterson as much. Smith is a better player late in games than Ponder, and he is also more accurate.
The Vikings should strongly consider Smith for next season, especially if Ponder fails to lead the team to the playoffs over the final two weeks of the year.
Depending on how the Ravens' season finishes, it may be time for the franchise and starting quarterback Joe Flacco to part ways.
The young quarterback has guided the Ravens to the playoffs in every year of his career, but he has failed to lead Baltimore to a Super Bowl.
Without a strong defense helping the team this year because of injuries, Flacco has been unable to keep the Ravens among the AFC's top tier of teams.
Not too long ago, the Ravens were the No. 2 seed in the AFC, but they would now be lucky to finish as the No. 4 seed, because they have lost three straight games. Flacco's poor performances in this losing streak are a real concern for Ravens fans.
He is completing just 59 percent of his passes this season and has a QBR of just 44.9, which is not good for a starting quarterback on a division-leading team. Flacco has also thrown an interception in nine of his team's 14 games this season.
Smith proved last year that he could take a team with a great defense deep into the playoffs and make enough plays to win games. If Flacco disappoints in the playoffs this year, then Baltimore must consider replacing him with Smith.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is capable of being a top-tier player, but he turns the ball over too much and has suffered multiple injuries over the last two years. There are real questions about his durability and whether he can lead a team to a Super Bowl.
Chicago has the 28th ranked passing game in the NFL, even though the offense has one of the league's elite receivers in Brandon Marshall.
Cutler has completed just 59 percent of his passes this season with 17 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions. In his last five games, Cutler has thrown just five touchdown passes with six interceptions.
Smith would take more care of the football and give the Bears a better chance to score points than Cutler. The 49ers quarterback is also a much more reliable player than Cutler because of his impressive durability.
If the Bears fail to make the playoffs or don't win a game in the postseason, they must consider acquiring Smith after the season.