If the Browns want Alex Smith, they'll have to give up draft picks for him. That's the latest update coming from the NFL combine.
Sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that the 49ers are "highly, highly, highly unlikely" to release Smith. So, if the Browns want Smith, they'll likely have to trade for him.
The Browns have been linked to Smith because he previously played under Cleveland offensive coordinator Norv Turner and the team's decision-makers have been noncommittal with Brandon Weeden. Other teams who might be interested in Smith are the Chiefs, Jets and Jaguars.
The 49ers have leverage right now because there are fewer high-potential quarterbacks in this year's draft. But the Browns know that San Francisco would prefer not to pay its backup quarterback $7.5 million this year. If the Browns wait to see if the 49ers will eventually release Smith, it would cost them a shot at other quarterbacks available in free agency like Matt Moore. This is because the make-or-break date for the 49ers is April 1.
According to Mike Sando from the NFC West blog, San Francisco must pay a $1 million bonus to Smith if he remains on the roster April 1. At that point, Smith's $7.5 million salary would become guaranteed.
In other words, don't expect the 49ers to do the Browns or other potential suitors any favors in March. The first day for any trades is March 12, which is the start of free agency. If the Browns want Smith at that point, it will come at a price.