By Eric Schmidt

Despite not naming a starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints, the San Francisco 49ers appear poised to usher in the Colin Kaepernick era in the Bay area. The second year signal caller made a spectacular debut last week against the Chicago Bears and is widely regarded as the future for the franchise than Alex Smith is. The question now has to be asked, will Alex Smith remain with the San Francisco 49ers in 2013?

Smith inked a 3-year $24 million dollar contract in March of this season. Smith is scheduled to earn $7.5 million in salary next season along with a $1 million dollar roster bonus owned to him in March 2013. Conversely, Kaepernick will play for a paltry $740,000 next season. If Kaepernick remains the starter this season and continues a high level of play, Smith’s future with the Niners will remain in doubt.

It’s highly doubtful that the Niners would pay Smith $8.5 million in order to ride the bench next season so the team has two options; release him or trade him. The team will likely exercise the $1 million dollar roster bonus but would then try to find a trade partner in order to move Smith. So which teams might be interested in acquiring Smith?

The 2013 NFL Draft class is not going to be exceptionally deep this season and the free agent market is going to be slim. The Philadelphia Eagles might release veteran QB Michael Vick. The Kansas City Chiefs might decide to dump Matt Cassel. The Buffalo Bills might also decide that they overpaid Ryan Fitzpatrick and decide to go another direction. Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco are in contract years, but there is no way their respective teams allow them to hit the free agent market.

A trade to the Jacksonville Jaguars-

The quarterback play has been lacking in Jacksonville under Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert has landed on the injured reserve list and Chad Henne will get the final six starts of the regular season while auditioning for the 2013 starting job. A trade for Smith would give stability to the quarterback position and allow the Jaguars to focus on defensive needs in the upcoming draft.

A trade to the Kansas City Chiefs-

The Matt Cassel experiment has failed miserably in Kansas City. His best season came under offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, but Weis is long gone. Journeyman Brady Quinn is a free agent after the season and has not performed much better under center when called upon this season.

A trade to the Buffalo Bills-

The Bills have been one of the largest disappointments in the NFL this season. Ryan Fitzpatrick has averaged just 217 yards per game this season and has no touchdowns in four games. Fitzpatrick has cut back on his turnovers this season, but if head coach Chan Gailey remains, he could opt to go another direction.

Despite what is being reported as a mutual friendship between Smith and Harbaugh, I see no way how Smith remains next season if Kaepernick continues his high level of play. Smith’s career under Harbaugh has been resurrected and with 30 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions in the last two season, his trade value might not ever be higher.

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