The NFL Combine is a big step in the road to the NFL Draft, but getting virtually every major personnel person in the same place at the same time affords team the chance to talk trades, free agency and so forth. The league year does not start until March 12, and the chance to talk with free agents begins three days before that, but that won't stop teams from using the Combine to gauge interest in a variety of topics.
For the San Francisco 49ers, that means Alex Smith trade rumors will begin to pick up steam. The team cannot trade him until the start of the league year, but there will be plenty of discussions between now and March 12 across the league.
Although the hot stove has warming up for a while, Jason Cole threw a log on the fire late yesterday. Cole is reporting the 49ers have been talking with agents at the Combine, focusing particularly on the cornerback market. This is pertinent in the Alex Smith discussion because according to Cole, the 49ers apparently were making it known that they will have plenty of money to work with once they trade Smith.
I've noticed some comments in here about potentially bringing him back as the backup next season. Even if we remove the financial issues from the equation (needing that money to potentially extend or franchise Goldson, and/or sign free agents), there is still the issue of the benching. Cole points out that Smith was a good soldier but "those close to him have made it clear that he won't be so abiding if the 49ers don't work something out quickly." I have heard the same thing and simply cannot see this situation working out if the 49ers do not trade or release Smith.
Cole indicated Kansas City appeared to be the most interested in Smith, but one of his sources indicated it was probably too early to guess on that. The quarterback market will remain in a bit of flux as teams figure out what this year's rookie class brings to the table. With free agency starting on March 12, that gives teams a little over two weeks to get a handle on the rookies. There are some free agent options, as well as a potential trade for a guy like Matt Flynn or maybe Nick Foles, but the QB market is quite soft this year.
And so, we wait. We'll keep posting rumors and news about the many quarterbacks out there, but we'll mostly be looking at basic speculation.