Prior to the start of last night’s Pro Bowl game, Profootballtalk.com’s Mike Florio stated that he believes that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith is expected to ask for his release prior to the start of free agency this offseason. Smith’s future with the team was terminated with the exceptional play on the field of second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
An outright release of Smith would net the Niners nothing in return. Yes, Smith is under contract for the 2013 season at a $8.5 million dollar number, but that shouldn’t be a confiscatory number this offseason with a weak draft and free agent class at the quarterback position.
A release of Smith would allow him to be able to pick and choose the team he wishes to join. There is a risk that he might suffer a loss of money, but at this point perhaps he’d rather choose the team and coaching staff he wants to join instead of being shipped off to an environment he really doesn’t want to endure.
Perhaps the biggest suitor for Smith could be the Arizona Cardinals. The Niners might be reluctant to trade Smith in their own division. As a free agent, Smith would be free to join the Cardinals if he is so inclined.
While not the most dynamic playmaker at quarterback, Smith is a solid starter who took the Niners to the NFC Championship game in 2011. Head coach Jim Harbaugh was able to get the production out of Smith that had been just unfulfilled potential in years past after being a first overall draft choice.
Smith has been a model teammate on the Niners roster this season after suffering a concussion and eventually being replaced by Kaepernick. Most every team around the league realizes that the Niners are not going to pay Smith $8.5 million next season to sit on the bench behind Kaepernick, so the Niners would likely not receive much in draft compensation for him, knowing that they will eventually release him.
It would be a class act for the Niners to grant Smith his outright release and seek employment elsewhere in the league, moving on with his career.