In the waning games of a starting quarterback's contract, a losing NFL team's fancy turns to which decent-or-above veteran quarterback might be available in free agency.
Yes, it is technically possible that Alex might still redeem himself by closing the season on a four-game win streak, dragging a mighty 8-8 team deep into the NFC playoffs, and shocking the universe by beating some elite Patriots or Steelers squad at Super Bowl XLV.
And Mormon quarterbacks from Utah might fly out of my butt. Smith has won all of two games this whole season.
The reality seems to be that Alex is not much longer to be a 49er, and his 18-30 record in six seasons with San Francisco indicate that perhaps it's best he moved on.
In his weekly Sports Illustrated Mailbag, educated guesser Peter King notes that the 49ers are candidate for Palmer's services should the Bengals release him.
"The Bengals should listen to (trade) offers for Palmer," King writes. "Maybe from Miami, maybe from the 49ers, maybe from the Cardinals, maybe from Minnesota."
Palmer's welcome may be worn out in Cincy, as the Bengals bungle their way through a 2-11 season.
Palmer is playing under a pricey nine-year, $118 million contract. But should the Bengals decide to not pay his March 1, 2011 roster bonus, Palmer becomes unemployed and his rate becomes substantially more reasonable.
Joe Kukura is am freelance writer who looks better standing next to a World Series trophy.