Newlywed quarterback Alex Smith is on his honeymoon and won't have a new deal in place with the 49ers when free agency begins tonight. The 49ers aren't worried. Yet. General manager Scot McCloughan said on a conference call a little while ago that talks between the team and Smith's camp have been positive since the end of the season. In theory, the 49ers could keep Smith on the roster under his current contract right up until the start of the season. The real target is to have a new deal in place when the 49ers hold their first three-day minicamp, which likely will occur late next month. The 49ers would not risk having Smith -- who has had two shoulder surgeries in the last year and a half -- getting injured and being on the hook for the full salary he is now due in 2009. If a new deal is not complete by next month, the 49ers would hold Smith out of practice and he would fall behind in the quarterback competition.
Here's what McCloughan had to say on the topic:
On the status of reworking Smith's deal:
He's on his honeymoon. So the communication has been down. but again, like I said at the combine, the conversation has been positive through Alex and through his agent (Tom Condon) and we're just going forward. Like I said, we'd love to have him back as a 49er.
On the timeline:
There's no set timeline. From our standpoint, sooner would be better. I think from everybody's standpoint sooner would be better because if he wants the opportunity to start at quarterback he has to go through the entire offseason program to earn that spot. There's not a timeline, but sooner than later would be better for both parties
On whether he's comfortable enough in Smith returning that he won't look for a QB in free agency:
I am not comfortable enough. I'm not comfortable until it's signed on the paper. I've got to do what's best for this organization and that's making sure we have quality depth at all positions. I'm not going to sit around -- because anything could happen, you know? I'm not going to sit around and (say), 'Well possibly this could happen.' It has to be for-sure happening otherwise I'm going to address the position.
On whether he's concerned Smith could go somewhere else?
I am concerned. Sure, a little bit. But that's this business. For us to ask him to restructure, that's kind of a shock. He's under contract for two more years and for us to ask him to take a paycut -- not just the player but the agent as well -- it's kind of a blow to the ego. But again I feel really good about it and we're trying to do what's best for the organization and also what's best for Alex Smith.
How long can you carry Smith at his existing salary?
We can carry him all the way into training camp. He can't go on the field with us and practice under that contract right now. But we could carry him all the way to training camp.
If you got Smith re-signed and had Shaun Hill, would that be enough at QB or would you still look?
Still look -- in free agency and the draft.
Would you look for a starter?
We'd look for a quality quarterback. That has a chance to start? That would be great. If it's a veteran, you would hope he would come in here and add to the pool of players there and make it better. If it's a young guy, you hope he wouldn't have to start right away. He could kind of get his feet wet and progress through it and at some point become the starter.
Do you see J.T. (O'Sullivan) coming back at well?
Fifty-50. Again, no doors are closed on any quarterbacks. You know, we know what J.T. is, and he has the talent and the skill level that we like. So definitely the door's not closed on J.T.
-- Matt Barrows