Jim Harbaugh today said that players who want out of their contracts don't have those wishes granted. Then again, he said that every scenario is unique.
The current situation with Alex Smith certainly isn't run of the mill. The quarterback lost his starting role to Colin Kaepernick after suffering a concussion and has stated that he wants to start next season, a scenario that seems impossible in San Francisco as long as Kaepernick is on the roster.
Harbaugh said he has "great respect" for Smith, who finished with a 104.1 passer rating this season, as well as a "great personal friendship, togetherness with Alex." But he stopped well short of saying Smith will be released from his current contract to seek a job elsewhere.
"We feel good, great about our quarterback situation," he said. "You can't have enough good quarterbacks."
If the 49ers retain Smith beyond April 1, they will owe him all of his 2013 contract, which amounts to $8.5 million. That's a lot for a backup but not for a starter, which raises the possibility that the team can get something for Smith in a trade.
That's likely the reason Harbaugh the 49ers are hesitant to say that Smith will be released - if they're going to lose their former No. 1 pick, they'd rather get something for him in return.
"I don't think any player has those wishes granted when they're under contract," Harbaugh said of being released from a contract. "And everything's different and every scenario is unique. Certainly something that we're not going to delve into and get into specifics at this point."
Last week team CEO Jed York said the 49ers certainly had the salary-cap room to keep Smith next season. York, too, was non-committal:
"From a need standpoint? It's pretty nice to have two quarterbacks that you feel you can win with," he said. "Is there going to be a demand for a quarterback that's played as well as he has the last couple of years? Yeah. Does he want want to go start and play? So there are a lot of things that go into it. And we'll sit down after the Super Bowl and figure out what's best for everybody and how to move forward."
Harbaugh said he will sit down with Smith this week like he will all of his players. General manager Trent Baalke also will meet individually with the 49ers before they disappear for the offseason.
- Matt Barrows