Following Sunday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII, the San Francisco 49ers are now focused on what needs to happen over the next few months to continue their rise to the top of the NFL.
The 49ers avenged their loss to the New York Giants in the 2011 NFC Championship Game by beating the Atlanta Falcons in the same spot this past season. If momentum continues on this same path, 2013 could be the year that San Francisco captures its sixth Super Bowl.
Before this team is crowned as next year's champion, however, the 49ers must tie up a few loose ends. Deciding what is next for quarterback Alex Smith is first up on the agenda.
Smith left Week 10’s 24-24 tie with the St. Louis Rams with a concussion, only to see his starting spot permanently handed to second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick for the rest of the season.
It’s now easy to establish that head coach Jim Harbaugh made the right decision.
Under Harbaugh, Smith had begun to turn his career around—compiling a 19-5-1 record, while completing over 64 percent of his passes for 4,881 yards, 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 25 starts.
While his track record lacks longevity, Smith has proven to be a positive influence in San Francisco—even following his midseason benching.
The 49ers can either release Smith and allow him to test the free-agent market, or trade the quarterback should they find the right deal.
For San Francisco to avoid a $1 million roster bonus owed to Smith in mid-March, his future needs to be decided rather quickly. His full salary of $8.5 million in 2013 is guaranteed at the start of April.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported that Smith will ask the 49ers to release him prior to free agency. Florio (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter) has since reported that San Francisco will try to trade the quarterback.
What can the 49ers expect in a trade for Alex Smith
Coming off a career year in 2011, Smith drew little attention on the free-agent market prior to this past season. But with very little buzz surrounding this year’s crop of college quarterbacks, and not much else in free agency, the eight-year veteran could become a hot commodity this time around.
Several NFL teams are in search of a competent quarterback, including the Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, and Cleveland Browns—and possibly even the New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans.
With so many teams needing to shore up the most important position on the field, the 49ers will be very active over the next few weeks in trying to unload their backup quarterback.
Owed just $15 million over the next two seasons (including various bonuses), Smith’s contract is very team friendly—making him that much more tradeable.
Not only is the financial aspect of the deal attractive for a potential starting quarterback in this league, but with only two years remaining, teams aren’t locked in to a long-term contract with a guy that has seen nominal success in the NFL.
Though it is tough to determine exactly what San Francisco will ask for in return, dealing Smith is the best option for the team. Finding that trade partner will be the easy part.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter