While newlywed Alex Smith is on his honeymoon, talks about reducing his contract have been put on hold. The only timeline for getting a new deal in place apparently is Monday, March 16.
That is the day that the 49ers get together for the first this offseason. In essence, that is when the QB competition against Shaun Hill is scheduled to begin. At the end of that week, the 49ers will get on the field for their first minicamp. While Smith remains under contract for two seasons, there is no chance he will step on the field without a new deal, GM Scot McCloughan said just moments ago.
The reason, of course, is that if Smith were to get injured, the 49ers could be on the hook for his entire $9.625 million salary – the salary the 49ers refuse to pay Smith in 2009.
“The conversations have been positive through Alex and his agent,” McCloughan said. “We’d love to have him back as a 49er. There’s no set time line — sooner would be better, if he wants an opportunity to be starting quarterback.”
McCloughan said he is not heading into the free-agent signing period assuming Smith will re-sign with the club.
“I’m not comfortable enough until it’s signed on the paper,” McCloughan said. “I need to make sure we have quality depth. . . . For us to ask him to restructure is a shock. To take a pay cut, it’s a blow to the ego. We’re trying to do what’s best for organization.”
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McCloughan made his remarks during a 17-minute conference call with Bay Area reporters. There was no news from the conference call. Here are some of the other topics he addressed:
–McCloughan said they have not closed the door on any of their free agents. Even J.T. O’Sullivan you might ask? McCloughan said his return is 50-50. He was not asked about Jamie Martin.
–The club has not reached contract extensions with any of their players.
–McCloughan was asked about Jonas Jennings’ status. In one of the great non-answers of all time, McCloughan said, “He’s under contract until we trade him or cut him.”
(By the way, there is no hurry to do anything with Jennings’ contract because the 49ers do not need the cap room. He continues to rehab his shoulder. The 49ers seem to want to make sure he’s healthy before doing what needs to be done.)
–He said the odds of Isaac Bruce’s return is still 50-50. He added that either way, “We need to add two good players at the receiver position.”
–McCloughan said the club is not going to make a big splash early in free agency, like they did the past couple years with Nate Clements and Justin Smith. But he said he would be on the phone at 9:01 p.m. (PT) to get in touch with agents, and possibly set up visits. He said the team will visit with everything they sign so they can look at the person’s medical status.
–He said he wants to build through the draft. I asked if this was a change of philosophy. After all, the team has been very aggressive in free agency. He said the reason they’ve gone out and done some things in free agency was because Paraag Marathe has done a good job of managing the salary cap, so the team had room to operate.
–Speaking of cap room, McCloughan confirmed that the club has approximately $25 million in camp room. (That number would increase to about $29 million if the cap rises, as reported, to $127 million per team.)
–Defensive lineman Ronald Fields could be a hot commodity on the open market because of his size, durability and the feeling that the draft is not deep with defensive linemen.
–The 49ers have the flexibility of playing both Isaac Sopoaga and Kentwan Balmer at nose tackle, McCloughan said. However, he said he feels the best position for both players is left
–Andy Lee makes about $1 million a year. Shane Lechler makes $4 million a year, after he signed his extension last week. McCloughan said the 49ers did a great job of signing Lee to a deal. He said Lee is a value for the organization for how well he has played and the money he is making. But, McCloughan added, “We’re going to take care of our guys.” That leads you to believe the 49ers will give Lee a pay raise before his contract expires in 2012.
–The 49ers also want to extend Patrick Willis, whose deal does not expire until after the 2011 season. But McCloughan said there is no urgency to get anything done.
–McCloughan places free-agent linebacker Takeo Spikes’ return at 50-50. He said it’s important for the team to try to retain him.
–As for the philosophy in free agency, “We’re going to add guys in free agency that make 53-man roster — or the 80-man going into training camp – stronger.” He said there is a value for every player free agency, and the team has assessed how much value every free agent has for the 49ers.
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