With a win against the Miami Dolphins in week 14 of the NFL regular season, quarterback Colin Kaepernick has pretty much solidified his role as the starter for the San Francisco 49ers. Even if the 49ers incur another loss, it’s fair to say that Kaepernick is the future of the franchise. Unfortunately, that does leave out former starting quarterback Alex Smith, who lost his job after suffering a concussion in week ten.
The subsequent changing of the guard will undoubtedly lead Smith to request a trade from the 49ers organization following the season. Sadly the 49ers will more than likely agree to part ways with the quarterback that had taken them to the NFC championship game last year and compiled one of the best winning percentages in the last two years. Certainly they cannot keep his current contract of 24 million over the next three years, when he is essentially only going to be a back up. So after eight seasons in the NFL, the often-embattled Smith will leave the only team he has been with since draft day.
But where will he end up going? There are a lot of scenarios to consider, with other quarterbacks also looking for new teams and organizations that have quarterback situations that are not living up to expectations. There may even be teams looking to take on a veteran quarterback as a starter to guide their newly signed rookies that may have been struggling with the NFL learning curve.
There is also the Michael Vick factor to consider. Vick has made it clear that he does not intend on playing another down for the Philadelphia Eagles again. It was a very amicable separation, but one that has opened up the floodgates for teams looking to take on his services. Vick will most certainly start as quarterback again in the NFL, and his destination will play a critical role as to where Smith lands. Especially when Smith is also very capable of being a starter in the league somewhere.
Philadelphia Eagles: After letting Vick go, they have pinned the organization’s future on rookie quarterback Nick Foles. And while Foles has played admirably, it is uncertain that the Eagles continue on to next year with him at the helm. There is a definite chance that Smith lands here if the Eagles want to develop Foles for a few more seasons before making him a permanent fixture at quarterback.
Arizona Cardinals: Right now the quarterback situation in Arizona is in complete disarray, they have used three different starters to date, none of which has been very productive. Unfortunately, the issues stem from quarterback protection more than anything. Each of their three quarterbacks have been on the injured reserve list at least once this season. So regardless who is quarterback there, production will be at a minimum if they cannot stay off the ground. Either way, more than likely the Eagles will look to make a change, and more than likely they will look to either Vick or Smith as their savior. It will be difficult for 49ers fans to see Smith back in the same division, but it’s a pretty safe bet that he ends up a Cardinal.
Kansas City Chiefs: As of right now the Chiefs are manned by a combination of two perennial back up quarterbacks in Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn. Both had once offered so much promise, but in the end they just did not live up to expectations. The Chiefs are another solid bet as to where Smith goes. He automatically retains a starting position here, and they have the foundation that would make Smith successful.
New York Jets: Statistically the Jets have one of the worst passing games in the league. Their current starter Mark Sanchez has not lived up to expectations and their back up Tim Tebow seems to be more of a public relations object. After their abysmal season this year, it is not out of the question that they test the market for a new signal caller. Just his efficiency alone would win Smith a starting position for the Jets.
Jacksonville Jaguars: It’s fair to say that the Blaine Gabbert experiment has not gone so well in Jacksonville. The starting quarterback for two years in Jacksonville now, Gabbert has shown improvement, but has also shown that his caliber may not be up to the standards of a starting NFL quarterback. He more than likely needs a few more years of development before he can be considered a viable option as a starter. And their back up is five-year veteran Chad Henne, who has also found trouble adjusting to the NFL game. Henne is one of the better back ups in the league, but unfortunately, a back up is probably all he will be in the NFL. Smith has a very decent chance of starting in Jacksonville if the Jaguars decide to move on from their current situation.
Tennessee Titans: The Titans find themselves in much the same situation as Jacksonville does. They have a second year quarterback that has just really not grasped the NFL game yet. Jake Locker for all his talent is having trouble adjusting to the NFL leaning curve. He has the potential to be a starter in the future, but now may not be the time. Unfortunately for the Titans, the back up there is 14-year veteran Matt Hasselbeck, and while very good as a starter in his prime, his career window is closing. In fact, this may be his last year in the league. His retirement would leave a grand opportunity for Smith to come in a take on a leadership role and start for this team. All the while, prepping young Locker for his eventual spot in the limelight.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Right now they have Josh Freeman as their starter, and as of now he is doing the organization its just due. He has not been great in his four years in the league, but he has also not been too terrible either. It’s hard to see the Buccaneers moving away from Freeman, but stranger things have happened in the NFL. Statistically, it would be an improvement to pick up Smith over Freeman, but chances are they will stay the course.
Oakland Raiders: Statistically, Smith is not even in the same class as the Raiders current starter Carson Palmer. But Palmer is finishing up his tenth season in the league, many of which has been down right brutal to the stoic passer. Palmer has lived through a lifetime of nearly career ending hits, and while his contract states that he is in Oakland for the next four years. It is not out of the question that he ends up retiring before that time comes. It would be an excellent opportunity for Smith, though he will not start there for the immediate future. His playing time will come in Oakland with a Palmer injury or his retirement on the not too distant horizon.
Miami Dolphins: Led by rookie Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins are putting a lot of weight on his shoulders. And though it is too early to tell how the future will turn out for young Tannehill and the Dolphins, he does offer a slight opportunity to be replaced. It’s highly unlikely that they change their course, but Smith would get a chance in Miami to compete for a starting role. And if he did go there and start, his leadership would be an excellent tool for Tannehill to progress with.
Cleveland Browns: Same story here as in Miami, Smith would probably get an opportunity to compete for a starting spot, but more than likely they will end up staying with their current rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. However, the Browns have been known to do similar things in the past. Just last year they started a rookie quarterback in Colt McCoy, only to replace him with another rookie in Weeden. So anything is possible in Cleveland.
So where Smith ends up is a mystery, but it is pretty certain he will not be a 49er next year. There are a handful of teams that would do themselves justice to bring him into the fold. Some of them only need a viable quarterback as their missing piece of a potential playoff bound puzzle.
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