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A problem the 49ers might welcome

Joe asks via Twitter: If Alex Smith has a Pro Bowl year, won't the Niners be in the same position the Browns were with Derek Anderson and his contract?

Mike Sando: That's a "problem" the 49ers might welcome. If Alex Smith goes to a Pro Bowl, the 49ers will probably be a playoff team. The Browns missed the playoffs at 10-6 when Anderson had his big season, but even 9-7 should deliver the 49ers to the playoffs this season.

The Smith-Anderson comparison might be a good one. Anderson completed 298 of 527 passes for 3,787 yards during the 2007 season. He had 29 touchdown passes, 19 interceptions and an 82.5 rating.

Smith started only 10 games last season and threw only 372 passes, so his numbers didn't compare to Anderson's numbers straight across. But their passer ratings were similar. When I projected Smith's stats based on the same number of attempts Anderson had in 2007, the numbers appeared quite similar (see chart).

The 49ers, like the Cardinals, could find themselves with a dilemma if their quarterback plays just well enough for his team to value him as a starter, but not well enough for his team to value him as a franchise player. Leinart's contract balloons in value for 2011. Smith is not signed past 2010.

Alex Smith vs. Derek Anderson