The Arizona Cardinals might be interested in entering the trade market for 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, writes Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic.
Citing an NFL source, Somers writes that the team's level of interest in Smith, who played his last full game against Arizona, is unknown but that the Cardinals believe Smith's early-career struggles were the result of the carousel of offensive coaches that went through San Francisco since 2005. Smith was 18-19 and threw three touchdowns against the Cardinals in November, one week before he suffered a concussion and was subsequently benched for the rest of the season.
The scuttlebutt from the scouting combine in Indianapolis has been that the 49ers are so confident that they will be able to trade Smith that they've been telling others that they expect to have 15 picks in the upcoming draft. They currently have 11; three more are expected next month as compensatory picks; the 15th ostensibly would come from moving Smith.
The conventional thinking has been that the Chiefs -- owners of the No. 1 pick in the draft -- are the most likely team to deal for Smith. Having the Cardinals enter the discussion would be interesting. The 49ers conceivably would have multiple teams bidding and thus would get better compensation. On the other hand, they'd also have to consider dealing Smith inside the division.
As Somers notes, the Cardinals recently traded for another quarterback, Kevin Kolb, and would have to do some roster juggling if they won Smith in a trade. Kolb's cap number for 2013 is $13.5 million, and he would have a $6 million cap figure even if they cut him
Smith, meanwhile, is under contract for two more seasons. The 49ers will owe him his full $8.5 million salary if he is on the roster on April 1. He has another base salary of $7.5 million in 2014.
Smith's main criterion is that he wants a chance to start, which he'd get in either Kansas City or Arizona. The Cardinals obviously are closer to his home state, one of his best friends, guard Adam Snyder, is on the team and he would get a chance to play his old team, which passed him over for Colin Kaepernick, twice a year.
The downside: Arizona's pass protection was terrible the last two seasons, which led to plenty of hits on -- and injuries to -- Kolb. Smith also has struggled at avoiding sacks, and he's suffered a concussion in each of the last two seasons. Although teams can discuss trades, they cannot be finalized until March 12 at 1 p.m. at the earliest.
-- Matt Barrows