With Peyton Manning no longer a Colt, officially as of Monday’s news conference in Indianapolis, the floodgate of speculation about where he will land has opened.
Former San Francisco 49ers great and Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice even chipped in this week, telling the Marin Independent Journal that if Manning were to be cut loose by the Colts, the Niners should go after him.
“I think you go for it,” Rice told the newspaper. “A guy of that talent, you’ve got everything in place. You’ve got a defense that smacks you in the mouth. You just need a little more out of the offense. That’s not knocking what Alex (Smith) did. (Manning) can take you to a whole different level.”
Added Rice: “If he goes to the Washington Redskins, I guarantee they win 10 games. If he goes to Miami, they win 10 games.”
However, despite what Rice wants and what many 49ers fans will soon demand, San Francisco – which, by the way, won 13 games in 2011 with Smith at quarterback and came within one victory of going to the Super Bowl – is going to pass on Manning.
Start picturing him in Redskins, Browns, Dolphins, Chiefs or Seahawks colors perhaps, but not in a 49ers uniform.
Jason La Canfora of NFL.com reported today that the 49ers have no interest in Manning and are intent on re-signing Smith, who can become an unrestricted free agent next week.
La Canfora reports the 49ers already have made an offer to Smith and his agent, Tom Condon.
San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami reports everything points to the 49ers and Smith reaching a “comfortable three- or four-year agreement.”
Smith, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2005 draft, is coming off the best season of his career in his first year under head coach Jim Harbaugh. In a new West Coast scheme, Smith had career highs in completion percentage (61.3), yardage (3,144) and quarterback rating (90.7) and threw 17 TD passes vs. just five interceptions.
Harbaugh all along has been a big fan of Smith’s and has said this offseason that Smith is his quarterback. GM Trent Baalke has also supported Smith.
Tuesday on KNBR, Baalke was asked about his team’s interest in Manning and said: “We haven’t had Peyton in here, nor are we talking about those things internally.”
CBS Sports NFL columnist Clark Judge says yes, Peyton Manning – if he’s still the Manning of old – is an obvious upgrade at the QB position over Smith. But ejecting Smith in favor of Manning would be a mistake.
It would require Harbaugh, he says, to tear up his offense and a chemistry that worked in 2011. Judge says Smith “was a perfect fit for the 49ers,” a guy who “didn’t make mistakes, was capable of making big plays and knew how to win.”
With an upgrade at wide receiver through the draft or free agency – and a year of familiarity and confidence – Smith could be even more effective in 2012.
“Alex Smith fits a niche that is perfect for San Francisco,” wrote Judge. “So don’t screw it up.”