San Francisco 49ers backup QB Alex Smith will generate plenty of interest whether the team cuts him loose to test the free-agent market or attempts to deal him in a prospective trade.
With a lack of other viable options from the crop of veterans and a relatively weak 2013 quarterback draft class, it is for good reason that Smith will be highly coveted. The rumor mill is buzzing around the former No. 1 overall pick, with the Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals most recently linked to Smith.
Here is the latest chatter that should only persist and increase as the offseason wears on.
There is talk that Smith would like to reunite with former offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who called the plays for Smith back in 2006 in San Francisco.
As reported by Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Smith had plenty of kind words to say about Turner:
Loved my time with Norv...[It was] a very, very friendly QB system. For [Cleveland], it's going to be a terminology change going from a West Coast system to the digits, but very, very QB friendly, big-play potential for the offense with a lot of chunk plays.
In that context, ESPN's Jamison Hensley—who has been getting the latest scoops from the NFL Scouting Combine—breaks down the latest rumors swirling around Smith.
Hensley indicates that the Niners are gauging the Browns' interest in trading for Smith, and that draft picks will have to be involved in order to acquire him.
For a rebuilding team like the Browns, this is a tricky proposition. The team remains committed to building through the draft under new ownership, and already don't have a second-round pick this year due to taking WR Josh Gordon in last year's supplemental draft.
The Niners have until April 1 to release or trade Smith. Otherwise, he will be due a $1 million roster bonus and his $7.5 million in salary will become guaranteed. That's a hefty price to pay, and Hensley intimates that the Browns have leverage in that regard.
Kent Somers of AZCentral.com discusses the possibility of the Cardinals trading for Smith, and logged what 49ers GM Trent Baalke had to say at the combine this week:
...Baalke told reporters at the combine today that the team is keeping all of its options open with Smith...Baalke said he recently had dinner with Smith and his wife, telling the couple that the 49ers were keeping their options open.
Obviously, San Francisco would love to get some return on the value that Smith presents—especially since he was playing the best football of his career before losing his starting job to the electrifying Colin Kaepernick.
Despite the fact that the Niners QB would have a chance to potentially play against his old team twice a year by remaining in the NFC West division, Somers doesn't think it's ultimately going to work.
Somers notes that the Cardinals already traded for oft-injured Kevin Kolb two years ago and have a lot of money invested in him. He also indicates that Kolb is arguably just as talented as Smith when healthy. Kolb did guide Arizona to four wins to start 2012, but his season was cut short by a rib injury.
Should the Niners be forced to release Smith, Somers believes that the Cardinals will act—and he notes that some decision-makers in the Arizona organization like Smith.
But as far as a trade is concerned—which is in all likelihood Smith's route out of San Francisco, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen—it doesn't appear to be in the cards for Arizona.