San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Alex Smith is expected to ask for his release before the free-agent signing period begins on March 12, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com reports.
Smith opened the 2012 season as the 49ers' starting quarterback, completing more than 70 percent of 218 pass attempts for 1,737 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions before sustaining a concussion in a Week 10 tie with the St. Louis Rams. Smith was inactive the following week against the Chicago Bears and was replaced in the starting lineup by 2011 second-round pick Colin Kaepernick.
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Smith earned the starting job in head coach Jim Harbaugh's first season as 49ers head coach and guided the club to the NFC championship game by playing mistake-free football, completing 61.3 percent of his pass attempts for 3,144 yards with 17 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
Despite their deep playoff run with Smith at the helm of the offense, the 49ers allowed Smith to test free agency as they themselves flirted with Peyton Manning, who had been released by the Indianapolis Colts prior to the start of free agency. Smith visited the Miami Dolphins, but after Manning signed with the Denver Broncos, the first overall pick of the 2005 NFL draft signed a three-year, $24 million contract that included $15.5 million (partially) guaranteed money to remain with the 49ers.
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Smith received a $3 million roster bonus on March 26, 2012 - $1 million of which was deferred until March 15, 2013 - and his $5 million base salary in 2012 was fully guaranteed. Smith is due to earn $7.5 million in base salary in 2013, with $1 million already fully guaranteed. If Smith is on the 49ers' roster on April 1, the remaining $6.5 million will become fully guaranteed.
While the 49ers would prefer to trade Smith, who the team has invested tens of millions of dollars in over the last eight seasons, they will have a very short window of opportunity to do so. According to a source with knowledge of the contract, Smith is due a $1 million roster bonus on the third day of the 2013 league year, which gives the 49ers around 48 hours to move Smith, and his contract, to another team's roster.
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