The Super Bowl is over for the San Francisco 49ers, and for Alex Smith. The 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the Superdome was likely the last game that backup quarterback Smith will ever play as a 49er.
You remember Smith, right? The quarterback that helped the 49ers get to a 6-2 start to the 2012 season before getting injured against the St. Louis Rams and, ultimately, losing his starting job to second-year player Colin Kaepernick? The quarterback who was also the NFL's top rated passer (104.3) through those 10 weeks? The quarterback that completed 18 of 19 passes in his final game, a hair away from a perfect 19 of 19? Yeah, that guy.
Well, reports seem to indicate that Smith will indeed be leaving the Bay Area, and joining a new team, as a starter. The 49ers will try and get something out of Smith by attempting to trade him away, but if that proves impossible, they will likely drop him and allow him to pick his team -- out of some form of respect for the quarterback that literally lost his job because he got a concussion.
Even with a lot in Smith's favor, trading him won't be easy. Despite the fact that there are numerous teams that need a new starting quarterback, and that these teams won't just be able to pick a quarterback in this year's awfully weak quarterback draft class, his new team will still have to pay him $8.5 million in 2013, and offer the 49ers some value in the trade. That is unless Smith agrees to restructure his contract, which Smith has yet to comment on. It could even be in Smith's best interests to just hit the open market, where he could make over $8.5 million.
The likely suitors for Smith are among the likes of the Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs. It seems as though the favorites are the Browns and Chiefs.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid was said to have pursued Smith while he was the coach of the Eagles last year, and there seems to be no reason why he wouldn't still be interested now. The Chiefs have a mess at the quarterback position, but are a talented team that Smith should have no problem joining.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said that there will be a competition for the starting quarterback job this year, which will put Brandon Weeden head-to-head with another player. That was hint one, hint two was when Smith praised the work of now Browns offensive coordinator, Norv Turner. The Browns are not as talented as the Chiefs, but nonetheless are an up-and-coming team.
In terms of the Cardinals and Vikings, those are just two teams that could be in the swinging for Smith. The Cardinals have an absolute mess at quarterback, the worst in years, and would be dumb to not at least try and get Smith. The Vikings, however, still have Christian Ponder at quarterback -- a player that has yet to fully prove himself, and has yet to be supported fully by the organization for starting in 2013.
My guess is that Smith will either end up with the Browns via trade, and I have no idea what the 49ers would get in return, or he'll end up with the Chiefs via free agency. Wherever he goes though, he will be able to make an immediate impact on his new teams winning percentage.