No matter what, the San Francisco 49ers are in trouble. The NFL labor dispute is likely to drag on through the summer and the 49ers will be one of the teams most affected since they have a new head coach in Jim Harbaugh and a tenuous quarterback situation.
Now, it appears that Alex Smith has told at least two local reporters from the Sacramento Bee and CSNBA that he is likely to accept Harbaugh's overtures and sign with the 49ers, should the labor dispute be resolved. Reporters also observed Smith leading workouts with 49er receivers, since they are not permitted on team training facilities.
Smith, drafted number one by the 49ers in 2005, has been ineffective as the 49ers starting quarterback since coming from Utah. His 22-32 win-loss record and career 72.1 QB rating is a far cry from 49er greats like Joe Montana, Steve Young, or even Jeff Garcia.
Yet, the statistics don't reflect the real problems between the 49ers and Alex Smith. In reality, the 49ers have had seven different offensive coordinators over Smith's seven year tenure. In addition, Smith has never had a good or consistent wide receiving corps.
Smith should be tired of the 49ers as much the 49ers should be tired of Alex Smith.
The 49ers appeared to be turning the page on the old era of Mike Singletary and Mike Nolan with the hiring Harbaugh, the highly sought-after former Stanford coach. Harbaugh has a reputation for scouting and developing quarterbacks like Andrew Luck.
Charged with doing the same for the 49ers, Harbaugh appears to be taking the easy way out by re-signing Alex Smith.
On the NFL network yesterday, Harbaugh said, In my mind, and hopefully in his mind, he is a 49er and we look forward to him competing for that starting quarterback position next year.
With second round draft pick Colin Kaepernick's recent surgery and developmental timeline, Smith would become the de-facto starting quarterback if no other quarterback is brought in.
Harbaugh is rightly concerned that the NFL lockout makes it impossible to sign or trade for another quarterback. However, every team is in the same situation, and the lockout actually gives the 49ers the opportunity and time to look at all their options, since a normal year of free agency would require a quick decision.
Among the available quarterbacks, it has been widely speculated that Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer would be a good fit with the 49ers in a trade.
He is a two-time pro-bowler and his career 86.9 QB rating and 62.9% completion percentage compare favorably with Jeff Garcia. More importantly, the Bengals quarterback needs a change of scenery just as much as the 49ers need a change of quarterback.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Palmer as saying in January, I will never set foot in Paul Brown Stadium again. I have $80 million in the bank. I don't have to play football for money.
The Bengals drafted TCU quarterback Andy Dalton in the second round and would likely jump at the chance to receive the same second round pick in 2012 in a trade for Palmer.
It would be a small sacrifice in order to create a new future for the 49ers.