Alex Smith: What's Next for 49ers QB After Team's Super Bowl Loss

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2013

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 16:  Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before a game with the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 16, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Following the San Francisco 49ers' 34-31 loss against the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, the focus will now shift to quarterback Alex Smith and his future in the NFL

Smith has spent his entire seven-year career in San Francisco. It was often tumultuous, as the franchise went through numerous coaching changes and instability, which led to him being labeled a bust. 

Despite putting up the best statistical season of his career in 2012, completing 70.2 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and just five interceptions, Smith suffered a concussion in Week 10 against St. Louis. 

The injury to Smith opened the door for Colin Kaepernick, and the rest, as they say, is history. The 49ers offense looked more explosive and fast-paced under Kaepernick than it ever did with Smith at the wheel. 

Even with some limitations to his game, Smith has shown more than enough over the last two seasons, including a 5-0 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions in the 2011 postseason, to warrant playing somewhere. 

What we can say with absolute certainty is that Smith's days in San Francisco are over. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported that Smith will ask the 49ers for his release prior to the start of free agency.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that the 49ers are likely to explore trade options for Smith before releasing him. 

Being released would be the best thing for Smith, who wants to control where he plays next season, and he can't do that if he is traded unless he talks to the 49ers about where he wants to go and they work out a deal with that team. 

However, the problem the 49ers face in trying to trade Smith is that the 31 other teams know they have to release him because they can't afford to keep his $8.5 million guaranteed salary on the books past March 31. 

With all that out there, it would be a shock not to see Smith on the free-agent market this offseason. He wants to find a place that will give him the best chance to start in 2013, he has earned that right with his performance and there are always teams that need a quarterback. 

Yet, another problem Smith faces is finding the right situation that will highlight his strengths and hide his weaknesses. 

We all know that the Kansas City Chiefs need a quarterback, but does Andy Reid's air-it-out style really fit what Smith can do? Will Reid be willing to adapt that style to fit Smith's controlled, take-no-risk approach?

The Arizona Cardinals might be in the market for a quarterback since Kevin Kolb can't stay healthy, but will Smith want to play behind that offensive line? Would the Cardinals even want to try him behind that line, given his knack for taking sacks to avoid throwing the ball into traffic?

Jacksonville and Cleveland don't have great quarterback play, but both teams have spent first-round draft picks on a quarterback recently whom they probably just don't want to give up on right now. 

There will be a market for Smith because quarterbacks always have a market, and he is the best one available this offseason. 

Facing an uncertain future can be a scary proposition for anyone, especially a soon-to-be 29-year-old quarterback with a history of mixed results.

Considering how well Smith handled himself after Kaepernick took over, there is no doubt that he will be a model teammate and give everything he has to wherever he goes next. All that we can for sure is his time in San Francisco, both the good and bad, has come to an end.