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From the combine: 49ers ‘unlikely’ to release quarterback Alex Smith, expect to be active in draft

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Jim Harbaugh says a release of Alex Smith is "unlikely" (USA Today Sports Images)

There is zero doubt that the starting quarterback of San Francisco 49ers will be Colin Kaepernick, which makes the continued presence of backup Alex Smith on the roster an issue that the NFC champions will need to address in the offseason.

After leading the 49ers to the 2011 NFC championship game, Smith tested the free agent waters before returning to San Francisco on a three-year, $24.5 million contract that included $15.5 million in guaranteed money. Smith is due a $1 million roster bonus on March 14 and if Smith is on the 49ers' roster on April 1, his $7.5 million base salary will be fully guaranteed.

Ideally, the 49ers would make a transaction before paying Smith a $1 million bonus, but the team is prepared to keep him and, unlike last offseason, Smith is "unlikely" to hit the free agent market via a release, head coach Jim Harbaugh said on Thursday.

"I think the main thing is Alex is a heck of a football player," Harbaugh said during his entertaining turn on the podium at the combine. "Alex is really playing the best football of his career the last two years. And we think we have the best quarterback situation in the National Football League. Feel strongly about that.

"Again, that'll be a process that plays out. Alex Smith, continuing to be a 49er or if a trade occurs in the next weeks or months. Those are the two possibilities...(the two) most-likely possibilities."

The 49ers have one of the NFL's deepest rosters and currently have 14 selections in this year's draft. As the New England Patriots routinely do, the 49ers could use some of those picks to move up throughout the draft.

"Feel good about having that many picks," Harbaugh said. "To say we'd be more active in the draft this year wouldn't be going out on a limb by saying we'll be more active this draft. I think that's true."

Harbaugh provided some colorful quotes during his media session, including his disclosure that he is "a big fan of the Judge Judy show" and follows the example of President Ronald Reagan when he was asked about how truthfulness of a player factors into their evaluations.

"And when you lie in Judge Judy's courtroom, it's over. Your credibility is completely lost. You have no chance of winning that case," Harbaugh said. "So I learned that from her. It's very powerful, and true. Because if somebody does lie to you, how can you ever trust anything they ever say after that? Ronald Reagan, another person of great wisdom and advice, 'Trust but we will verify.'"

The Harbaughism that might look best embroidered on a (very large) pillow?

"It's a new day today and paws in the ground and we're attacking it with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind."

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League type:
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League size:
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Draft time:
Sep 3 9:00 am
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