ESPN The San Francisco 49ers are “highly, highly, highly unlikely” to release quarterback Alex Smith, sources told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. Smith, the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick, lost his starting job to Colin Kaepernick last season while sitting out with a concussion. Speaking at the NFL combine Thursday in Indianapolis, Niners general manager Trent Baalke said no decision has been made on Smith’s future but did say he spoke with the QB and his wife at dinner earlier this month. “We had a great discussion,” Baalke said. “I can’t say enough good things. And I think if you ask anyone in our organization, they would say the same thing: He is a pro’s pro. And I have nothing but great respect for him, his family, and we’re certainly going to do everything in our power to make the best decision for everyone involved. “We’re going to look at all options available. Are we going to trade him for sure? No, that hasn’t been decided.” Before the injury, Smith had completed 26 of his last 28 passes — including going 18 of 19 for 232 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions in a “Monday Night Football” win at Arizona on Oct. 29. He sustained a concussion in the second quarter of the 49ers’ next game, a 24-24 tie against St. Louis on Nov. 11. Smith sat out the next game as Kaepernick dazzled in his debut as an NFL starter, beating the Bears handily at home on “Monday Night Football” before leading the Niners to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Ravens. Smith didn’t start again during the run.
Smart play by the San Francisco 49ers here. Total gamesmanship. Why would they release Alex Smith?
They are the deepest team in the NFL, why weaken that depth by releasing their former starting quarterback who has already played extremely well in their offense and get nothing for him? What’s in it for the 49ers? Why weaken your depth at the quarterback position, getting nothing in return, and be forced to play Scott Tolzien at quarterback if Colin Kaepernick is injured?
It would be a dumb move by Trent Baalke and the 49ers brass to say anything other than we are “highly, highly, highly unlikely” to trade Alex Smith. Then teams that are interested in Smith and are sitting back anticipating his would release have no sense of urgency to make a move.
However, now the teams that are interested in Smith need to think, “We want Smith, but they are not going to release him, we had better make an offer that is better than what other teams are offering to ensure that we get him.” And the 49ers will end up getting some assets in return for parting ways with their former starting quarterback.
This was the right play, the only play, for the 49ers brass if they intend on getting anything in return for Alex Smith. If you are a fan of one of the NFL’s quarterback needy teams this offseason, Smith is very much available, you are just going to have to surrender a few draft picks to get him. They are sending the message, “You want Alex Smith? Pay up.”