Stupid, idiotic, nincompoop-ery; these are just some of the words being thrown around (by me) regarding the recent news that the San Francisco 49ers are going to trade Alex Smith.
While the deal is not done yet, nor has their trading partner been confirmed, sources close to the situation say that a trade is ‘all but done’ and the likely destination for Alex Smith will be with the Kansas City Chiefs.
After Smith, the former No. 1 overall pick, lost his starting job to Colin Kaepernick in the middle of last season, speculation ran rampant about just what San Fran would choose to do with their defunct gunslinger after the 2012 season.
If they gave him his outright release, Smith would be free to sign with whomever he wanted, but the Niners would get nothing in return for a truly hot commodity. However, if Smith was still on the 49ers’ roster on April 1st, then his entire 2013 salary would be guaranteed and they would be forced to pay a backup quarterback starting QB money.
So it looks like the 49ers have decided to strike while the quarterback free agent market is weak and get what they can for Smith via a trade. That is their best option, right? To that I say, balderdash!
Alex Smith has proven he can win in the NFL. If Kyle Williams had not muffed a punt at the end of the NFC Championship game in the 2011 season, Smith would have already led the Niners to a Super Bowl appearance. Before he was sidelined with a concussion last season, Smith was actually leading the NFL in QB rating (104.1). Sure Kaepernick deserves to be the unquestioned starter next season, but that does not mean the Niners should immediately part ways with Smith.
Alex Smith is set to make $7.5 million in base salary next season – 17th highest among NFL QBs. Colin Kaepernick, on the other hand, is only scheduled to earn $740,844. Together, Smith and Kaepernick would not even rank as a top-ten earner at the position.
Peyton Manning’s $20 million salary for 2013 is more than double the two of them combined. So the idea of saving money with this move is completely irrelevant. And theoretically, they could keep Smith for two more seasons, seeing as Kaepernick’s 2014 salary will only be $973,766.
It may be a lot to pay for a backup, but as a running quarterback, Kaepernick will always be one play away from the 49ers having to turn to their second-string quarterback. Being able to call in Alex Smith from the bullpen instead of [insert random clipboard-holder here] could make all the difference between a San Francisco team that could still contend for a title, or one immediately looking forward to the 2014 NFL Draft.
And I know the immediate reaction that some people will have, saying that the 49ers are doing right by Smith by trading him to another team where he can start. Horse-feathers!
If the 49ers really wanted to do right by Smith, who didn’t complain or make life difficult in the 49ers’ locker room after his demotion, then they would have released him and allowed him to sign with a contender. Instead, the Niners are looking to move him to one of the worst teams in football. Make no mistake about it, this move is about the 49ers, not Alex Smith’s well-being – no matter what the PR machine will try and spin.
In the end, San Francisco had better hope Colin Kaepernick does not regress or get hurt next season, because, if this deal happens, they may turn and look towards the sidelines for help, only to realize they now have an Alex Smith-shaped hole in their lineup.