According to Janie McCauley of the Associated Press, Alex Smith's new deal is for 3 years, worth 8M per year with 16.5M guaranteed and can max out at 33M.
What do these numbers mean? Basically, it means that the 49ers are committed to Alex Smith for at least the next two years. Should they decide to cut bait on Alex and go forward with Colin Kaepernick after next season, they will have paid him 16.5M for one year -- near the tops in the league for quarterback’s salary.
Should the 49ers go with Alex for all three years of his deal, they'll pay him close to their original offer -- 24M over three, or 8M per. The extra 9M, which rounds out the 33M max, is in incentives, which one would hope that he earns. This may be perceived as pricey, but fans should keep in mind the contracts being given to players like Matt Flynn and Mark Sanchez. Flynn, who is going to earn 6.5M less in guaranteed money, remains a complete unknown. Mark Sanchez’s contract is the equivalent of the 49ers giving Alex Smith a hefty raise in 2008, as Sanchez fell flat on his face this season and certainly wasn’t paid accordingly.
But what's more significant is how this final agreement differs from what the 49ers were originally offering. The contract on the table for Alex over the last few weeks was reported to be for 3 years, 24M with 10M guaranteed. The biggest change lies in the guaranteed money, now up 6.5M from what was originally reported.
49ers GM Trent Baalke, becoming infamous for his ability to keep from blinking in a contract staring contest, appears to have caved when it comes to Alex Smith. As much as the 49ers wanted to make it seem that they could move forward without Smith, they proved that they weren't so confident in Colin Kaepernick after all. Without this deal, Alex would have walked, but this deal ensures that they now have a veteran quarterback presence skippering their offense for at least the next year.
And this is how it should be. The 49ers and Alex Smith need each other. Alex's success in the NFL has so far been predicated by the careful handling of a coach who had worn his brand of work boots before, and few coaches can say they have like Jim Harbaugh.
Conversely, the 49ers whiffed in their pursuit of Peyton Manning and have no better option than Alex Smith at this point. Kaepernick is talented but unfinished. Scott Tolzien is unproven and won't get a chance this year at 3rd on the depth chart either. The options around the rest of the NFL are all downgrades from Smith (anyone interested in trading for Tebow?). No other quarterback has the chemistry with the 49ers that Alex has and it's clear that he provides the 49ers the best chance to win, at least while Kaepernick works towards being NFL ready.
If this money doesn't heal Smith's "Manning Watch" wound, I suspect that time will, and all will be well when the 49ers take the field in August.