Around the NFC West: Alex Smith's future

Around the NFC West: Jan. 29, 2013

NEW ORLEANS -- Word came Monday from Pro Football Talk that San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Alex Smith would request his release following the season.

My initial thought: Good luck with that.

Players in Smith's situation naturally would prefer to receive their release over a trade for the freedom it would provide them in seeking their next employer.

But if the 49ers can get value for Smith by trade, they have a professional obligation to seek that value for the future of the team. They must act in the best interests of the organization first. They cannot let Smith's agent pressure them into making a decision at the expense of the team.

Smith is a sympathetic figure these days. He lost his job while sitting out with a concussion. He invested fully in his work and lost his starting job through no real fault of his own. He's been professional at every turn and has continued to mentor his replacement. In fact, coach Jim Harbaugh indicated Monday that Smith spends more time than he does coaching Colin Kaepernick. That is great to hear and totally consistent with the high character Smith has demonstrated over the years.

Once the season ends and free agency draws near, the 49ers owe Smith their respect. They should work with him to whatever extent is feasible. But they certainly owe no special favors to Smith after paying more than $42 million to him over the last eight seasons. They'll put the team first, of course.