So far, the 49ers seem to be playing their Alex Smith card to perfection as they use their ace to rake in as many chips as possible with him.
The story, that apparently ended with a trade, began when reports emerged from CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, out of the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, that the Niners had a deal in place for Smith.
Smith was the team’s starting quarterback at the beginning of the 2012 season, but he lost his job to Colin Kaepernick after suffering a concussion.
As La Canfora reported first on Twitter Sunday, “The 49ers have expressed to others that a deal for QB Alex Smith is effectively complete. Can’t be finalized til league year begins 3/12.”
It was a clever leak from the 49ers braintrust, in that it suddenly set up the possibility of a bidding war for the quarterback. By not naming the possible team, organizations in need of a QB suddenly might panic a bit and make a stronger bid to the 49ers for Smith, thinking that another team had the inside track.
The most common thinking from the beginning was that the Chiefs were the trade partner, because they desperately need a quarterback and have a new coach in Andy Reid who has said publicly that he admires Smith. Plus the Chiefs, who have the No. 1 pick in April’s draft, don’t see a bonafide quarterback worth taking at the top of the first round. They could trade for Smith and then use the top pick for another need.
Also, by releasing news that a deal is “effectively complete,” the Niners sent a strong signal that they have no plans to simply release the veteran QB. If another team wanted him, it was going to have to go after him.
Since La Canfora’s initial reports, the Arizona Cardinals have reportedly expressed interest in Smith, according to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic.
“They are intrigued by Smith’s experience, intelligence and talents, according to the source,” Somers wrote. “They believe much of his struggles early in his career can be attributed to changes in coaches and offensive systems.”
Though the Chiefs may indeed be the team that has the outline of a deal in place, there is plenty of time before the March 12 date for another team to step forward, be it the Cardinals, Browns or Jaguars.
As Somers noted, “It makes little sense for the 49ers to narrow their trade options at this point.”
The Sacramento Bee’s Matt Barrows reported that former Chiefs GM Scott Pioloi said on NFL Network that the 49ers might get as much as a second- or a third-round pick for Smith.
Barrows also notes that having the Cardinals jump into the Smith auction would be exactly what the 49ers are looking for. A bit of leverage.
“Having the Cardinals enter the discussion would be interesting,” wrote Barrows. “The 49ers conceivably would have multiple teams bidding and thus would get better compensation. On the other hand, they’d also have to consider dealing Smith inside the division.”
For the 49ers organization, the situation with Smith has evolved into a much more advantageous position and if the reports Wednesday are true, the 49ers played the scenario to perfection.