Short of the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints—teams that employ quarterbacks with proven track records who have a handful of productive years ahead of them—the San Francisco 49ers just might have the best quarterback situation in the entire NFL.
The New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers also boast signal-callers who have made names for themselves in this league. And the Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks are also solid bets to join this conversation soon as well.
However, no team as currently constructed is as stable under center as the 49ers are right now.
While San Francisco may be trying to find a suitable trade partner for backup quarterback Alex Smith (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter), CEO Jed York says Smith’s salary of $8.5 million wouldn’t be an issue for this team in 2013 (via Cam Inman of MercuryNews.com).
In fact, with new starter Colin Kaepernick coming at such a steep discount—still playing under his rookie contract of four years and about $5.1 million—the 49ers would only be taking a cap hit of just over $11.1 million on both quarterbacks next season.
According to Spotrac.com, that figure would place San Francisco at 16th in the league when accounting for the amount owed to other teams’ projected starting quarterbacks for next season (also projected that Joe Flacco’s new deal would exceed the 49ers’ $11.1 million figure).
It is unlikely that any other team in the NFL would have endured such a spike in production with their second-string quarterback as San Francisco did in 2012 when Kaepernick replaced Smith back in Week 10.
What should the 49ers do with Alex Smith this offseason?
Smith did carry over his breakout performance from 2011—leading San Francisco to a 6-2-1 record while completing over 70 percent of his passes for 1,731 yards, 13 touchdowns and only five interceptions before getting injured. But not many will deny that Kaepernick’s injection into the 49ers offense is largely responsible for the team’s run to the Super Bowl.
Ian Rapaport of NFL.com is reporting that Smith will not be with the 49ers next year (via Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com). It was also stated the San Francisco will release the quarterback “as early as possible” because of his reputation with the team (also via Rosenthal).
While the 49ers could certainly use Smith’s salary to upgrade other areas of the roster, they shouldn’t budge if they aren’t blown away by a deal.
It is admirable if San Francisco plans on doing Smith a solid by letting him walk and become a free agent should they not find suitable trade compensation. But having the eight-year veteran around next season could be just as important to another Super Bowl run.
There is no question as to who the 49ers should start at quarterback; Kaepernick is their guy moving forward. But having a viable backup is something that is certainly coveted in this league—especially for a team that benefited greatly from using theirs just last season.
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