Adam M. Bettcher
With Alex Smith's pending trade from San Francisco, we discuss his market value and what the 49ers hope to achieve.
Fooch's Note: Alex Smith trade reportedly complete
The reality is beginning to set in that Alex Smith may be officially traded in two weeks. There are currently several teams rumored to have interest in the San Francisco 49ers' quarterback, which should make this a profitable situation for the defending NFC champs.
Now, before I begin to talk about our former first overall pick like a commodity, I'd like to mention a terrific homage to Alex Smith by Samuel Lam. In "A Proper Farewell to Alex Smith," Lam pays tribute to the No. 11, identifying and thanking him for his contributions.
It's truly a great read that really puts the whole journey into perspective.
And although the Smith era is over in San Francisco, his career is very much alive. At 28 years old, Smith is at the height of his career and has a great chance to continue his success with the next team he joins.
There is the hope that Smith goes to the Chiefs, because like Adam Schein, I believe that is the best-case scenario for all parties involved. Smith would be in a position to succeed in Kansas City. With Andy Reid and an assortment of playmakers, Smith can make them a contender in the AFC West.
However, with multiple suitors involved, the Niners may be inclined to take the best offer on the table. Outside of the Chiefs, the Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns have expressed interest in Alex Smith.
Fooch's Note: Jason LaCanfora tweeted this out early this morning:
The Alex Smith trade is not with Arizona, to be clear again. The Cards offer was weak. 49ers told people its not AZ. KC remains likely team— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) February 27, 2013
All of a sudden, Trent Baalke has a promising bidding war on his hands. And with his prestige and success in the front office, this is a new challenge that could very well see him come out on top.
The 49ers have two goals here: (1) Move Smith before the April 1 deadline for the best possible deal and (2) Give him a classy sendoff by dealing him to a winning scenario. They will be looking for draft picks and/or players in return, which is where this gets interesting.
San Francisco leads the league with an estimated 14 draft picks in 2013, and are in the market for more. They can request picks outside this April's draft, making sure they're set for the next couple of years. But it's a virtual certainty that the 49ers come out of this stronger than they went in.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated talked about Smith's value from the combine this week:
I think Alex Smith is going to go somewhere, and I think he's going to be traded. And I think it's ludicrous, ludicrous to think that Alex Smith would be released. If he's released, you can knock me over with a feather. To tell me that Alex Smith can't at least get a five (round pick) in this league-you're telling me that in one of the weakest quarterback class years that teams like Kansas City, teams like Buffalo, teams like Arizona, are not going to trade a good draft choice, a good to decent draft choice for Alex Smith. He's going to somewhere...
Ian Rapoport suggested on NFL Network that the 49ers might be using the Cardinals and Browns to drive up the asking price for Alex Smith. Considering he finished 2012 with the third-highest passer rating (104.1) behind Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning, the Niners are in a position to play teams against each other.
The understanding seems to be that the 49ers can receive a second- or third-rounder this year, and perhaps a player or conditional pick in a later draft. The market has been set for QBs with starting capability, and it seems to float within the vicinity of a pick in Round 2.
In 2010, Donovan McNabb was traded to the Redskins for a second-round pick (37th overall) and a mid-round pick the year after. In 2011, Kevin Kolb was traded to the Cardinals for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick. Whereas the Bengals netted a 2012 first-rounder and a 2013 conditional third-rounder for a rogue, used-up Carson Palmer.
Alex Smith has more value than these three quarterbacks. At the point of trade consideration, his game is at a higher level than any of these three recent examples before him. If the 49ers play this right, they can wind up with a couple second-rounders spread out over the next couple of years.
And with a team like the Chiefs, who possess the No. 1 overall pick, it will be a high second-rounder. The Niners would put themselves in a very favorable position because at the top of the draft, they'd be picking nearly back-to-back. By selecting in that close of proximity, they can better control their picks because they know who will be available.
Ideally, San Francisco would be able to select a safety like Matt Elam and a defensive lineman like Kawann Short or Jesse Williams. This would take care of two huge needs early, giving San Francisco great flexibility from rounds 2-7. They would be able to explore more radical options like Tyrann Mathieu, Marcus Lattimore and Dustin Hopkins.
They could also bring in a pass rush specialist and a couple of wide receivers like Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rodgers in the mid-to-late rounds.
In the big picture, if San Francisco can give themselves even more flexibility in this year's draft, they could come away winners in the Smith trade. If this draft is the one that puts San Francisco over the top in 2013, it will be Smith's final contribution to the Bay Area. And in the most untraditional way, the 49ers' 2005 first overall pick would have helped this team win a Super Bowl.