Something interesting is brewing in San Francisco. Last year, with the 4th pick of the 2nd round of the draft, the 49ers chose Colin Kaepernick, QB out of Nevada. This despite Alex Smith coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he led the 49ers to the brink of the Super Bowl. A very intriguing pick indeed, suggesting Mike Harbaugh and Co. are somewhat less than thrilled with the idea of Alex Smith leading the 49ers to the Promised Land. Kaepernick (aww, heck, call him QB K, his name's too damn hard to type) barely played in 2011, receiving only mopup duty in 2 blowout SF wins, completing 3 of 5 passes for 35 yards. This year is a different story.
This year QB K has been getting increasing playing time by the week. He's played in 4 of the first 6 games, including the last 3 straight. Up until last week he was used almost exclusively in a running capacity, racking up 112 yards rushing on only 12 carries. More or less, he was their version of Tebow. Then came last week. He threw 4 of 7 passes for 82 yards in relief of an ineffective Smith. Suddenly, it is not too far fetched to suspect a QB controversy is brewing in SF.
QB K reportedly has a much stronger arm than Smith. It goes without saying he is much more of a threat running the ball. His draft position coming off a really good year by Smith strongly suggests the 49ers are in no way committed to Smith for the long term. So, there appears to be a decent chance that Smith could be a backup QB as soon as this year. Which brings us to a hypothetical question.
Assume for the purposes of argument the following. None of this may come to pass, but let's assume it does:
1. By the end of 2012 QB K is the clear #1 in SF.
2. By the end of 2012 it has become clear Sanchez is not our long term answer at QB.
3. Alex Smith could be obtained for a mid round draft pick, say a 4 or 5.
Question for anyone who cares to answer: assuming all of the above, should the Jets make an offer for Alex Smith?
Before answering that question, I would point out John B's excellent discussion of how to approach the drafting of the next QB for the Jets in the QB and Mr. T thread. John rightly points out the benefits of going with a competent stopgap kind of guy until you are in a position to be as sure as one can be you have a shot at a true franchise QB, not just the best QB available at the time. So, for example, it may have been better to go with a David Garrard type in 2009 and 2010 and wait until the opportunity presented itself, with a deep QB class like 2011, to get our next long term answer at QB in the draft.
Some other food for thought. Smith is 28 years old, will not turn 29 until next May. If we made that trade, we would likely be getting the best 5 or so years of his career. His career numbers are uninspiring, but still better than Mark Sanchez's. He has a QB rating above 80 (something Mark has never achieved) each of the last 3 years, and so far 2012 makes it 4 years running. He had a QB rating above 90 last year, and again so far in 2012. He has a Completion % of 60 or better each of the last 3 years, and again so far in 2012. He has not thrown more than 12 INTs in a season since 2006. On the other hand, he has never thrown more than 18 TDs in a season. Last year he ranked 9th in the NFL in QB rating, and currently Smith ranks 7th in the NFL in QB rating, sandwiched between Tom Brady and Eli Manning.
Smith seems like something of a game manager type rather than a game changer, but he has the best overall #s of any game manager I have ever seen.
Smith signed a $24.5 Million contract before the start of the 2012 season. He received no signing bonus, but a 1st-year $3 Million roster bonus, plus each season he will have $1.25 Million in likely to be earned incentives. He also has a $1 Million roster bonus in 2013, and his 2013 base salary of $7.75 Million is guaranteed only if he is on the roster on April 1, 2013. From this structure, it looks like SF has good incentive to cut Smith before the 2013 NFL draft if they believe QB K is ready. That suggests the asking price in a Smith trade would not be much, as the alternative is to cut him and get nothing in return. Whether we could successfully rework his contract to be more cap friendly for the Jets is an open question.
So, given the assumptions laid out above, what do you all think? Should we make a play for Alex Smith?