Barring an unforeseen move, the 49ers will head into the 2021 season with Jimmy Garoppolo returning as their starting quarterback. General manager John Lynch said he has no doubt Garoppolo will be under center if the quarterback is healthy, and that his priority is getting better depth behind QB1.
A potential backup option hit the market Friday when the Washington Football Team informed veteran quarterback Alex Smith of his release.
Smith, who will turn 37 in May, was the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year after returning from a severe leg fracture and infection that threatened his life.
The move frees up more than $14 million in cap space for the Football Team.
While there is no current indication the 49ers would be interested in Smith, he would provide a stable, selfless backup option behind Garoppolo. While Smith has some important attributes, his durability would be a red flag for the 49ers. Smith played in eight games last season for Washington, but he suffered a calf injury in Week 14 and was unable to go in the Football Team's wild-card loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With Garoppolo missing 23 games in the last three seasons, the 49ers will look for a reliable option who they know can stay healthy.
The 49ers currently have Josh Rosen and Josh Johnson under contract, but neither is guaranteed a spot on the roster next season. This past season, the 49ers had Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard behind Garoppolo. Mullens is set to be a restricted free agent, while Beathard will be an unrestricted free agent.
The 49ers will have a number of options as they survey the backup quarterback market, with veterans Andy Dalton, Ryan Fitzpatrick and potentially Mitchell Trubisky becoming available this offseason.
The 49ers also could look to draft a quarterback at some point in the 2021 draft and have the rookie learn behind Garoppolo and serve as insurance should the starter go down again.
If Smith wants to continue his NFL career, there's a chance he could wind up in Jacksonville with his college coach Urban Meyer. Smith would be a good veteran presence for expected No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence to learn from, and it could allow Jacksonville to survey the trade market for Gardner Minshew.
As the 49ers look for a backup option to put behind Garoppolo, Smith is a name to keep an eye on but he shouldn't be viewed as a likely target.