Wednesday morning, the San Francisco 49ers announced that QB Alex Smith had officially signed his new three year contract to return to the team. After a week of turmoil, the deal was initially reported as containing $16.5 million in guarantees. A subsequent report from Matt Maiocco describes it as $9 million in guaranteed money, which was a $1 million increase from their previous offer. So an extra million bucks for putting up with this. I could live with that.
Now that Smith is under contract and virtually assured of being the starting quarterback in 2012, it's time for our official generic approval poll. In reality, everybody will have a different context for their vote, but I'd still like to see how people view this. Please feel free to explain your vote given that this is not the easiest of subjects to clear up.
While I would have enjoyed seeing a healthy Peyton Manning suit up for the 49ers, even as the situation was playing out, I kept thinking about how sweet it would be to win a Super Bowl with Alex Smith. It may or may not happen, but I suppose it is a sort of stubbornness given the way the last seven years have played out. I'm not here to say Alex makes it any easier to win the Super Bowl, but the fanboy in me thinks a Lombardi Trophy with Alex at the helm would have a certain additional level of satisfaction.
For those that missed it this morning, I've posted the transcript of Alex's conference call from yesterday after the jump.
QB Alex Smith
Conference Call - March 21, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
Alex, what are the emotions like right now for you having put this thing to bed?
"Obviously happy. I'm glad this is finally done. For me this was the plan all along. Obviously, since the season ended wanted to be back here. It dragged out a little bit, but glad it's over. Glad it's done. Glad to get back to work."
We talked to head coach Jim Harbaugh yesterday and he said things are exactly the same between you and him. What's your answer to that question? Where do things stand between you and the 49ers, you and Jim Harbaugh?
"As good as they've always been and getting better. The thing from day one when I first met Coach Harbaugh is he's always been upfront and always been honest with me and has continued to do that through this entire process. It's one of the reasons I love playing for him. So, no question, nothing there, just obviously looking forward to having an offseason with him."
"They were, yes. Jim and [General Manager] Trent [Baalke] were the ones that informed me obviously when this was happening and that they were going to look into that. So, it was obviously a little unexpected, but it's part of the deal. This is free agency and this is the NFL. And those things happen."
Were you offended by that, by the fact that they would fly across the country and take a look at him?
"Not offended at all. In fact, I would have relished the opportunity to compete for the starting quarterback job with Peyton Manning."
So you knew before hand that they were flying out there and doing that?
"As far as the timeline goes, I guess I'm not sure. It was right there along with it. Right there when they first started to look into the process of looking at him. They came over and sat down with me and told me about it."
You said that you would have relished the opportunity to compete against him. Were the 49ers telling you that if Peyton Manning chose the 49ers that you would be welcomed back to the team as well?
"Well the contract was out there the whole time. That's my impression. I guess that's a better question for Jim and Trent, but that was my understanding. I feel like, well I know this is my job. I feel like I've earned it. I've earned the right to compete for it and I've always welcomed competition and will continue to welcome it."
Alex, you said you weren't offended by the team talking to Peyton Manning, but what was your frustration level just waiting?
"The frustration came from, I guess, the entire process of just working out the contract, of just finally getting it done. It was a long process, longer than most that I've been a part of, as far as this is my fourth contract now with the Niners. Obviously, I was anticipating it moving along quicker and it didn't. That came from the frustrating part, none of this other stuff."
Are you happy with the, I mean you signed the contract, but did you go slower because you were possibly looking for a longer commitment from the team?
"Well, the years of the commitment had nothing to do with it. That's never been an issue for me."
What was the issue for you? Why didn't you sign it when the offer was first on the table?
"The issues came more from the structure than anything. Really the money wasn't an issue. Those of you guys that know me know what type of guy I am. I mean, money, great for security but I'm not a guy that has a bunch of flashy cars. I'm not a guy that, other than taking care of family, is not something that means a whole lot to me and really just a matter of working out the structure of the contract to get it to where we felt good about it."
But isn't structure equivalent to commitment?
"Yes and no. No question, there's so much language that goes into these contracts, different things here and there. I guess that's why I don't do it myself. That's why I have an agent that does that. And he sits down with [Chief Operating Officer] Paraag [Marathe] and they hash it all out. So, just a matter of getting it to where you want it."
Was the structure altered in the last couple days?
"Yeah, it's been altering all along. This whole process is a give and take, back and forth between myself and my agent and the Niners just trying to meet on middle ground. That's the process all along as you move along and finally just getting it to where both sides are happy, both sides feel good about it."
When you went to Miami what were your emotions going on that first trip of free agency for you?
"I had never been to Miami Beach and thought it was a good way to go see it."
Was it sort of tricky because Tom Condon was representing you and Peyton, or did that all work out OK?
"That has never been an issue for me. I have full trust in Tom. He and I have a great relationship. I don't know where that report came from. Obviously, I think to a lot of people it made sense just because he represents both of us, but no, I didn't have any issues with it at all."
How close were you to, or I guess how serious were discussions with the Dolphins when you were there and then afterwards?
"Seemed serious at the time, but I've said this before, this was the plan all along. This was where I wanted to be. This was always the goal for me to get back here and to get it done. So, kind of is what it is. It's free agency. It's the NFL. Went down there, but like I said the plan all along was to be back here."
To get [WR Randy] Moss and [WR Mario] Manningham now in your receiving corps, how's that shaping up do you think? Is that pretty exciting?
"Yeah, I am excited about it. The NFL these days this is what happens. You're never going to be the same team two years in a row. There's always going to be faces in and out, year-to-year now. And this is part of the deal. Obviously, this year it was kind of our receiving corps a little bit and excited for those two additions. And really excited for this offseason to put the work in, to put the time in, to have an offseason to build on what we did last year, and to get better because we certainly have room for it and need to get better."
What intrigues you most about having Moss on that receiving corps, Alex?
"He's Randy Moss. He's got a toolset that is totally unique to himself. When you're last name can all of a sudden become a verb, that you've got "Mossed," as the receivers say. He's a special player. I think we've all seen what he's done over the years, and look forward to being able to throw the ball to him."
Just as the whole Peyton Manning thing developed, there was always a contract offer on the table for you?
"I was always in contract negotiations with the Niners the entire time. It had never stopped."
Did you and Peyton ever talk at all?
"No, I never talked to him."
They told you maybe last Monday, would that be fair, before they flew?
"I don't know what day it was. I guess looking back, as far as the whole timeline of events. Obviously early last week sometime. I forget what day it was. It all kind of seems like a blur."
But it was in person you said, correct?
"Jim and Trent came over, and sat down with them."
You mentioned obviously you were a free agent, but you had such a special bond obviously last year, not just with the team but Jim, the whole thing. Do you have thoughts on kind of what's the protocol in a situation like this when you feel like it's your job, you feel like you're their guy, but you're also a free agent and everyone has to protect their own interest?
"I guess I never really felt like a free agent to tell you the truth. Like I said, this was the plan to come back here. It was just a matter of getting it right and getting it done. And that's it. That's the bottom line. That was it. So, I never really felt like a free agent. I don't know if there is any protocol, or right way to go about it. Obviously, I would have liked it to have got done sooner, but that's neither here nor there. It's done now and I'm happy about it."
What did Jim and Trent tell you about what would happen if they signed Manning? In that conversation.
"The first conversation with Jim was yeah, it was about competition. Really the one time we sat down and talked about it, it would be about competition and best man winning. And that's really the way it's always been with Jim. The same way with me last year when I got brought in, nothing was ever laid out there, nothing was given to you. You were going to have to earn everything. And I agree with it. Jim firmly believes in-that's the nature of this game. Going all the way back to when it first started. It's about competition and about the best guy playing. It's what's best for the team. This isn't about individuals and I agree with that. And I've been a part of a lot of that over the years. I've been involved in a lot of competitions, and it seems like every year it's like that. So, nothing any different about it this year."
Alex, people assumed you would have some hard feelings, but you have seen it all in your seven-year career, haven't you? I mean this is nothing new for you.
"I feel like I've been through way worse than this. You know, it's free agency. Yeah, it is always going to be a little crazy. Maybe this year a little crazier than most. You get to the point where you stop worrying about all that other stuff and you focus on what you need to do."
Alex, you guys faced the Saints in the preseason, obviously in the playoffs. They were punished big time with the bounty thing. What observations can you make or any insights. As a quarterback, did you ever feel like you were targeted unnecessarily?
"As far as New Orleans goes and the Saints, I really don't have anything to say about that. It's not my job, it's really outside of what I want to be talking about. I don't think I have a great perspective on it anyway. As a quarterback you feel like they're all out to get to you. I really don't want to talk about that, I guess."
You were seen, kind of, I don't want to say trash talking, but talking to the Saints after you scored that touchdown in the playoff game. That didn't have anything to do with perceived cheap shots or anything like that at that time?
"No, no, absolutely not. I think it had to go along with, when a team's talking trash to you. It was the last touchdown and I knew they couldn't do anything about it and I guess a lot of emotions on my chest, and I felt like getting them off."
Alex, looking at how this team is constructed right now, what do you think of your chances for 2012?
"Say that again?"
Looking at how the team's constructed right now, and how you have a lot of guys coming back, what do you like for your chances for this coming season?
"You know, I look forward to working as hard as I can this offseason, getting better and trying to win that first game. It goes back to this, this is the NFL. I think the thing that makes it so great, is that year-in and year-out, I don't care what your expectations are, I don't care what you did the year before, none of that matters. You have to reinvest yourself. You have to put in the work, put in the time, to get anything out of it. Just because your record was whatever it was the year before, doesn't give you anything. In fact, it probably makes it harder. We certainly aren't sneaking up on anybody this year coming up. I think everybody is going to be ready for us, not to say they weren't last year. When you go to the NFC Championship game you got a little bit of a target on you. I look forward to that challenge. Obviously, we have a tough schedule coming up, we play some good teams. I think the entire division is going to be better, and like I said, I think this entire locker room is up for the challenge."
Alex, did you come here? Are you at 49ers? Did you come in and sign your contract today?
"I am in the facility as we speak, yes."
Thank you, just wanted to know.
Alex, in regards to improving, is there anything in particular you plan on working on this offseason?
"Well, I mean as a quarterback, obviously the passing game is the emphasis. I think it's really time to kind of take it to another level. You know, at times last year, you know we were more effective than others and certainly have a lot of room for improvement. Obviously, third down and red zone jumped out at me. Just being more effective across the board in the passing game. Really working on that timing. That was something we didn't have a lot of time last year to do because of no offseason. Really just kind of jumping into it in the middle of the season. You just don't have the time to really work on the timing and being together for that amount of time and getting all the reps in. For me that's what I look to focus on."
Alex, we saw Jim leave on Monday to presumably to stop and meet with you. Was that common throughout this whole thing? Did you talk to him, did you meet with him throughout the week or so that you were unsigned?
"When I was here, yeah I met with him a few times. When I was out of town obviously or he was out of town it was just over the phone. Yeah, I talked to him quite a bit. Even the few weeks leading up to free agency and then up until now getting signed."
Alex, it's been a little bit of a soap opera this last week with your situation and the Peyton Manning situation, on parallel tracks. How eager are you to get all the headlines behind you and really start focusing on football?
"All of that aside, I guess I've just been anxious this entire time just to get back to football. Like I said, this free agency, this was my first time being a free agent and you know I wasn't a fan of it. Football is where I want to be and I want to get back to work. I'm excited for that, yeah."