Whether or not there is a lockout come Friday 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has one pressing issue, quarterback. Come midnight on March 4 if there is no new collective bargaining agreement in place the NFL owners will lockout the players. This affects Harbaugh in that he cannot workout players currently on the roster and there will be no free agency until a new CBA is worked out. A lot of buzz has been made about Harbaugh talking with quarterback Alex Smith, so much so the NFL has threaten fines and loss of draft picks if Harbaugh and Smith continue to talk during the lockout. Harbaugh and Smith’s agent have been in contact about resigning the quarterback.
“I’m hopeful that Alex, as an unrestricted free agent, will choose that his next team to play with, the fresh start, is with the San Francisco 49ers. I’m on record as saying I very much like Alex. I like being around Alex. I’ve had a lot of opportunity to be around him.” Jim Harbaugh
Harbaugh is facing the reality of an NFL lockout. He and everyone else know the deadline will pass on March 4 without a new CBA and the lockout will last well into the spring if not the summer. Harbaugh understands that as soon as a new CBA is signed the 2011 NFL season will start shortly after with an accelerated free agency and training camp. Bringing in a new quarterback who is unfamiliar with the offensive system, offensive line, running backs and most importunately the receivers will not work for what Harbaugh wants to accomplish in 2011. The 49ers only quarterback signed on the roster, David Carr, is considered a backup. Even if the 49ers cannot re-sign Smith by March 4 it is highly likely Smith will be Harbaugh’s first choice after the lockout is over no matter if the 49ers select a quarterback in April’s draft.
That is the reality of the situation facing Harbaugh but I think it would be insane to re-sign Smith. I respect Harbaugh’s eye for talent and truly believe in his ability to inject confidence in Smith to get him to play better. However the 49ers are heading in a new direction and do not need Smith’s inconsistency and his proneness for causing turnovers. The 49ers and Harbaugh need a quarterback that can help the team win now. Lockout or not, Smith is not that quarterback.