Alex Smith has said and done all the right things since unceremoniously being replaced by Colin Kaepernick in the San Francisco 49ers' starting lineup. He has been the model teammate and a supportive backup. Now, it may be in his best interest to do something he probably imagined as unthinkable back in October.
A ProFootball talk report Monday indicated Smith is expected to seek his release before the start of free agency. Due to earn $8.5 million in 2013, with $1 million guaranteed now and the balance guaranteed as of April 1, the decision would allow Smith to be a factor in the beginning of the free-agent signing period.
A starting quarterback of a first-place team in Week 10. Asking for his walking papers three months later?
The unthinkable actually makes quite a lot of sense.
This year’s free-agent quarterback class isn’t exactly loaded with potential Pro Football Hall of Famers. Unlike last year, Peyton Manning isn't being courted. Joe Flacco isn’t leaving Baltimore (especially not after this year) and there are questions about Michael Vick’s long-term future as a franchise quarterback.
Smith still has a future as a franchise guy. Many within the league believe Smith, put in the right situation, can still be a very successful starting quarterback. He took the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game a season ago and he was having a very strong 2012 season. If his confidence isn’t completely shaken, he can be a very interesting — and motivated — veteran quarterback to build a team around.
Also helping Smith’s case is the fact that it’s not expected to be a particularly deep quarterback draft class. Unlike the 2012 rookie quarterbacks, there doesn’t appear to be a Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson in this year’s crop of draft-eligibile gunslingers. There’s probably not a Ryan Tannehill, either. Geno Smith and Matt Barkley — the expected top quarterbacks in this draft class — are not viewed as the same kind of "can't miss" prospects as Griffin III or Luck. Would you rather roll the dice on a college quarterback? Or go with a guy who's been there before and is looking to prove his doubters wrong?
This only boosts Smith’s stock.
There are a number of teams — namely the New York Jets, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Arizona Cardinals, the Cleveland Browns and the Buffalo Bills — that could be looking to add a quarterback in free agency.
All eyes and attention will be on Colin Kaepernick this week. This report puts Alex Smith somewhat back in the spotlight.