This week, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported on NFL LIve that there was "not a large buzz" surrounding San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. He also stated that the trade market was "limited" at this point. Only a few weeks back, there was the assumption that the Niners may be able to come away with a second- or third-rounder.
And since the 49ers are so loaded up with picks (14 to be exact), there was the chance they'd be willing to accept picks in the 2014 NFL Draft. This would be more desirable for interested teams that are rebuilding this offseason. There are quarterback-needy teams out there with holes outside the QB position.
Folks talking about Alex Smith to #Browns do know that Chudzinksi's scheme has always been about deep ball—Smith's weakness.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 11, 2013
He also said the Jets -- however desperate -- cannot afford his contract and must make do with lower-tier passers. They have Mark Sanchez and will look at affordable options for competition, like Matt Moore.
With new head coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles were once rumored to make a play for Smith, but they re-signed Michael Vick to a one-year deal and brought in Dennis Dixon to compete. There next move may be to trade Nick Foles to Kansas City, which would eliminate another destination for Alex Smith.
When Andy Reid arrived with the Chiefs, he had to assess the QB situation, which was made of an underperforming, injury-prone group led by Matt Cassel. A few weeks later, and Reid may want to bring Foles with him to compete for the starting role. He would cost less than Smith and is still in his developmental years.
The Bills have held on to Ryan Fitzpatrick after re-signing him to that aggressive contract. They also inked Tarvaris Jackson, which will keep him in Buffalo and may eventually stir a QB controversy in the Northeast. The Jacksonville Jaguars also committed to Blaine Gabbert for 2013, citing their offseason strategy to build around the passer in his third year.
At this point in time, the market seem to be drying up for Smith. But where does that leave the 49ers?
They want to get something in return for him but they cannot reasonably afford an $8 million backup. There was the indication that Smith wanted his release from the 49ers, which would allow him to test the market as an unrestricted free agent. While this is a worst case scenario, it still doesn't work out all that poorly for San Francisco.
The Niners would be able to drop a substantial contract and pay a better quarterback far less money to start. This would open doors for the Niners to re-sign other priority free agents soon. The hunch I'm getting is that the Niners want to wait it out while 31 NFL teams are evaluating the incoming talent in this year's draft.
It would not surprise me if they waited until mid-to-late March to make a move. Once the draft approaches and teams realize how sparse and undependable this QB class is, a team may be panicked into making a trade for Smith.
It is also possible that the other NFL teams are trying to make the 49ers sweat the April 1 deadline, upon which time Smith's contract is guaranteed for the season.