A day after announcing a three year contract for quarterback Alex Smith to return to the team. The 49ers signed former Jim Harbaugh pupil Josh Johnson to a two year contract. What was expected to be a rather quiet off season for San Francisco has anything but. First the 49ers made waves by finding a way to bring their entire defense back. The Niners struck deals with Ahmad Brooks, Carlos Rogers, CJ Spillman and franchise tagged Dashon Goldson ensuring the leagues second ranked defense would remain intact. Follow all the 49ers Free Agent Moves HERE.
Although it was strange that Alex Smith had yet to reached an agreement a week into free agency, nobody expected what was coming next. It was revealed last Friday that the 49ers were in the thick of the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. And the roller coaster began. Smith flew to Miami and met with the Dolphins extensively. Manning chose the Broncos the next day and Smith returned to the Bay Area. Harbaugh and he held a reported one hour kiss and make up session. Two days later, Smith resigns to a three year deal that both protects the organization allowing the door to remain open for Colin Kaepernick or someone else Harbaugh knows well. Smith’s contract also can escalate to $33 million, well beyond the $24 first reported but he must be on the roster April 1st of each season and hit his performance escalators in order for him to make anywhere near that amount of money.
In other words, the door is wide open for the 49ers to make a change at QB in the future. Just one day after announcing the new three year deal with Smith. The 49ers signed the former Tampa Bay Bucs backup adding even more intrigue into the QB situation. To their credit, both Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke have stated openly they want competition at every position. QB is also the most important position in Harbaughs book and depth at the position can only be positive.
It’s a stretch to think that Johnson can come in and become the 49ers starter this year. Unseating Alex Smith would take a lot considering his 14-4 record and the money they just gave him. The job is Smith’s to lose this season and that hasn’t changed. What Johnson provides is another talented, young QB that Harbaugh knows and likes. Johnson could serve in a part time, “wildcat” role out of the backfield and also has played a little bit of receiver in Tampa Bay.
QB is not a position the 49ers can move forward thinking is locked up. Smith had a nice season and has the opportunity to take the job long term with steady improvement. Kaepernick has the window to outplay Smith at any time and prove he offers the best chance to win. The teams willingness to gamble with Smith’s future hints that they have more confidence in their 2011 2nd round pick out of Nevada than we may know. No matter how this pans out, one thing is for sure, the QB situation in SF is more secure today than it was 24 hours ago.