According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, sources told him the San Francisco 49ers are “highly, highly, highly unlikely” to release QB Alex Smith. The 49ers must decide to trade or release Smith by April 1, otherwise, if he is still on the roster he will receive a $1 million bonus and his $7.5 million salary would become guaranteed.
It should not surprise Niner fans that the 49ers are making it seem like they will either trade or keep the quarterback. The reason being if other teams knew the 49ers would release Smith, it lessens the leverage San Francisco’s front office has in making a trade. In other words, teams would simply wait for him to be released to sign him, rather than give up draft picks in a trade.
General Manager Trent Baalke spoke at the NFL combine on Thursday and had this to say about Smith’s future with the 49ers:
We had a great discussion. 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.
The 49ers can afford to keep Smith and all of his $8.5 million salary for next season. Smith and Colin Kaepernick will be paid a combined $10 million in 2013. The bigger question is how willing and how comfortable would Smith be in being the backup next season? Really, he does not have a say in the matter. But, if you keep a disgruntled quarterback on your roster just to hang onto him so a division rival like the Arizona Cardinals cannot sign him, could cause headaches for the team during the season.
The 49ers are really not in need of more draft picks as they have an NFL-high 11 selections. But a team can never have too many draft picks. San Francisco has two picks in rounds three through seven, so this give them leverage in trade talks with teams about Smith. The Niners can play hardball and demand the draft picks they want. And if they don’t receive what they are asking for, Baalke and company seem to be willing to keep Smith on the roster.