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Don't expect the 49ers to do the Browns, or Alex Smith, a favor by releasing their defrocked starting QB

Feb 21, 2013 -- 1:48pm

By Tony Grossi




Extra Points …

Cue the trade winds: If the Browns want 49ers quarterback Alex Smith to replace Brandon Weeden, they’re going to have to trade for him.

That was the impression given by San Francisco GM Trent Baalke Thursday in response to questions at the NFL scouting combine.

While Baalke said that the team will review “all options” when acting on the future of their defrocked starting quarterback, the key comments were buried in another context.

Baalke said he met with Smith and his wife shortly after the team’s Super Bowl loss to Baltimore.

“We had a great discussion,'' he said. “If you ask anyone in our organization, they're going to say the same thing. He is a pro's pro. I have nothing but respect for him, his family, and we're going to do everything in our power to make the best decision for everyone involved.”

The options for the 49ers are to 1. Keep a disgruntled Smith as their backup at a cost of $8.5 million in 2013; 2. Release him and grant him his wish to drive up a market (and new contract demands) in free agency; or 3. Trade him for a mid-round draft pick.

Option No. 3 would seem to be “the best decision for everyone involved.”

Smith lost his job to read option-savvy Colin Kaepernick after suffering a concussion in the middle of the season. At the Super Bowl, Smith pouted about his circumstance. The only time I saw him smile was when he talked longingly about his one year in San Francisco with then-coordinator Norv Turner, who now is the Browns’ offensive coordinator.

That association -- and the Browns’ frigid reaction to questions about Weeden -- have made Smith-to-the-Browns a natural offseason rumor.

The timetable for a trade? Smith’s contract becomes guaranteed on April 1.

Smith is owed $8.5 million in salary and bonuses in 2013 and $9 million in 2014. Those aren’t outlandish numbers for an eight-year starting quarterback. But the Browns also have to figure in the trade cost, which could inflate to a third-round pick in a quarterback-starved market.

The Browns already are without a second-round pick as a result of the supplemental draft selection of receiver Josh Gordon last summer.

The Browns have not commented on the QB situation other than to say they want to create competition for Weeden. Coach Rob Chudzinski will meet with Cleveland-area media Friday morning and then visit the combine interview room later in the day.

Behind enemy lines: Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert gave a strong endorsement to new Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who was Steelers DB coach 2004-10.

“Ray Horton is a very intelligent, organized, demanding coach,” Colbert said. “I know that the Browns will be prepared defensively very well because Ray is very thorough, he’s respected, he’s played the game and he’s coached the game and been successful at both.”

Colbert was asked if he shared any of the Steelers’ secrets with Jimmy Haslam while Haslam was a minority owner with the team the last four years. Haslam bought the Browns in August.

“I want some of Jimmy’s secrets because I think he’s done pretty well in the business world,” Colbert said with a laugh.

“He would fly in on the weekends for our games. He made a lot of our away games as well. What I noticed right away was his passion for the game of football and, at that time, the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’m sure he’s taken that same mindset to Cleveland.

“I always thought Jim was very knowledgeable about football, particularly the SEC and Tennessee. He was always just very inquisitive about what we were thinking. We just really talked in general about players he may have seen that weekend or players that I may have visited. It wasn’t really so much into philosophies because we really didn’t have time.”

Catching up with the zone read: New Arizona coach Bruce Arians considers himself a traditionalist when it comes to quarterbacking. He dismissed the zone read option trend as something he won’t venture into.

“The more you put the quarterback in harm’s way, the more harm will come to him,” Arians said.

He believes that NFL defensive coordinators will make it an offseason project to prepare for the zone read.

“Give them (defensive coaches) credit,” Arians said. “That’ll be the big emphasis in everybody’s defensive room this offseason. One of the things we did, I hired a coordinator in college who’s been facing it the last 10 years. I think everybody’s gonna be going to colleges rather than colleges coming to the pros and get some information on how to handle it.”

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




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