Alex Smith shows a new side to his game


Alex Smith shows a new side to his game

It's all starting to make sense now.On the day the 49ers selected Alex Smith with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2005 draft, his college coach, Urban Meyer, provided a prescient perspective of the young quarterback.Six-and-a-half years later, Meyer's words are worth revisiting."Alex is an extremely quick learner," Meyer began. "However, he's a guy that, until he understands it, he is nonfunctional. . . . Alex Smith is a person that, once he is taught, has to learn it all. He might struggle early, but once he gets it, he gets it."I'm going to be anxious to watch his development with the 49ers. Alex is so careful with the ball. His touchdown-to-interception ratio the last 2 years (at Utah) was phenomenal (47 touchdowns and seven interceptions). That's because, unless he knows exactly what's going on, he won't throw it. He won't just try to guess and take a shot. He has to know."Meyer concluded, "That's why, early in his career, and early in our career with him at Utah, he was not an effective passer, because he really didn't understand. Once he understood, there was no one better. He learns quickly, though. But he's not a guy that you throw the ball out there and tell him, 'Go play.' He wants to know what is exactly expected of him and then he becomes a dynamite player." Alex Smith is coming off a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in which he completed 11 of 19 passes for 170 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.But the play that impressed me the most was an incomplete pass he threw in the second quarter. I've watched every snap of Smith's professional career. I've seen him in practice through the years.What I saw him do Sunday against the Buccaneers was something I'd never seen him do -- ever. With as many changes as Smith has endured in his seven-year career, it looks as if he is finally just going out and playing football.
It was a first-and-10 at the Tampa Bay 45-yard line. Smith dropped into the pocket. He rolled to his left to buy a little extra time. Then, he did something that, seemed almost out of character.
He signaled with his left hand to tight end Delanie Walker to abandon the script and go deep. In six seasons, I've witnessed a mostly robotic, paint-by-numbers quarterback. This is the first time I saw him improvise in such a way.The fact that the pass fell incomplete into the end zone was of little consequence. The play might have been symbolic of something greater."We were just playing football," Walker said. "That's something Alex hasn't ever done before. It kind of shocked me a little bit. I think that's why I misjudged the ball. He saw I had the dude beat and nobody was behind me. I came back and he was like, 'Go! Go deep.'"That was the first time doing it, so we weren't on the same page. Now, we're going to be on the same page. He wanted to put it on my outside shoulder to lead it away from the safety that was playing inside. It was basically playing street football."When I asked Smith about the play, he said he and the 49ers' offense are getting a lot more comfortable and confident."When you're comfortable with what you're doing, you're making good decisions and in your head the play slows down," Smith said. "So when a play breaks down, you stay under control."The epitome of that is when I watch Aaron (Rodgers) and the Packers. Everything is under control. All of a sudden, when it's not there, he remains so fluid and under control and there's never a breakdown or anxiety. He's so comfortable and they're so comfortable, and everything is under control, so they play faster because of it."I think there's a little of that with us. But I think we have a long way to go, and I have a long way to go."

Drafted by Baalke with injury, former 49ers WR signs with Colts


Drafted by Baalke with injury, former 49ers WR signs with Colts

The 49ers recently re-signed eight of the 10 players who finished the season on the team’s practice squad.

Wide receiver DeAndre Smelter, who was not among the first wave of 49ers signings to 2018 contracts, signed Wednesday with the Indianapolis Colts, ending his three-season association with the organization.

Smelter was one of general manager Trent Baalke’s redshirt draft picks. The team selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 draft despite a torn ACL that ended his final season at Georgia Tech.

Smelter spent his first season on an injured list. He was waived at the beginning of the past two seasons, finishing both years on the 49ers’ practice squad. Smelter appeared in two games in 2016 and caught one pass for 23 yards.

Last season, the 49ers signed wide receivers Louis Murphy and Max McCaffrey to spots on the 53-man roster instead of Smelter, who remained on the practice squad.

Wide receiver DeAndre Carter, who also spent the entire season on the practice squad, was signed recently to the team’s 90-man roster.

Others who finished the season on the 49ers practice squad to remain on the team’s offseason roster are: quarterback Nick Mullens, tight end Cole Wick, offensive linemen Andrew Lauderdale and Pace Murphy, linebacker Boseko Lokombo, and defensive backs Trovon Reed and Channing Stribling.

The 49ers also signed fullback Malcolm Johnson, who spent last season on injured reserve with the Seattle Seahawks. Johnson appeared in 19 games over the 2015 and ’16 seasons with the Cleveland Browns. He was a sixth-round draft pick in ’15.

Offensive linemen Cameron Hunt, who finished the season on the 49ers’ practice squad, remains unsigned. Guard JP Flynn is also unsigned. He sustained a torn patellar tendon in November and underwent surgery that was expected to keep him out up to nine months.

An intriguing dynamic of Garoppolo's contract negotiations


An intriguing dynamic of Garoppolo's contract negotiations

If the 49ers and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo are unable to reach a multi-year contract extension by March 6, the 49ers have no other choice but to designate him as their franchise player.

The estimated one-year salary for the franchise tag would be $23.307 million, according to former NFL agent Joel Corry, whose work now appears at CBS Sports. (That is assuming a 2018 league-wide salary cap of $178.1 million per team.)

There is a lot to consider for both sides as they look to enter into a long-term contract. Corry said if a deal is struck, he would expect it to be in the neighborhood of Derek Carr’s five-year, $125 million deal he signed with the Raiders last offseason.

“And then there’s the other dynamic, which I would not undersell or I think may not be appreciated as much as it should be,” Corry said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “(Garoppolo’s agent) Don Yee has a reputation – no fault of his own – of doing team-friendly deals.”

Yee also represents New England quarterback Tom Brady, whose average of $20.5 million annual pay ranks 15th among NFL quarterbacks. Brady is underpaid by design, Corry said, because one of the great quarterbacks of all-time realizes it helps the Patriots to maintain a strong supporting cast.

“That’s because Tom Brady dictates, ‘I want to do something good for the team, take less money so we can improve the roster to win Super Bowls.’ That’s not Don Yee who wants to do that,” Corry said.

“The agent works for the player, so he’s executing Tom Brady’s wishes. But he gets that held against him in recruiting. So this is his opportunity to erase that perception if Garoppolo allows him to do his job and gives him latitude to strike the deal that he feels is appropriate.”

For more on the potential negotiating strategies of both sides, listen here to the 49ers Insider Podcast.