The San Francisco 49ers will attempt to trade quarterback Alex Smith during the offseason, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
If Smith is released, it would basically give him a choice between teams interested in signing him. He doesn't get that choice if he's traded.
You could say that Smith deserves to have a say in San Francisco's ultimate decision. He's been a part of the 49ers ever since he was selected No. 1 overall in the 2005 NFL draft. He led the team to the NFC Championship Game last season. He was also the consummate professional after being benched in favor of second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick this season.
But in reality, the NFL is a business and personal relationships can't get in the way of a franchise's potential gains.
Not only would trading Smith get the 49ers something in return, it would save them a $1 million or $2 million roster bonus, according to the Chicago Tribune.
In that sense, as much as Smith has meant to the 49ers the past two seasons, it's a no-brainer that they should trade him, even if it means frustrating him in the process.
It's safe to say by now that the 49ers are going with Kaepernick moving forward. His development in his first 10 starts as a pro (including playoffs) has simply been phenomenal. He leads a new breed of dual-threat quarterbacks that includes prolific rookies Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson.
But given Smith's performance the past two seasons, there are sure to be plenty of quarterback-needy teams that see him as a catch. That could translate into an extra draft pick or two for the 49ers. And, as we've seen in the past few years, an extra draft pick or two basically converts into gold in San Francisco.
Smith's development as a quarterback, combined with his leadership abilities and character, makes him an attractive offseason target for teams. The 49ers would be doing themselves a disservice by simply releasing him.