The reason why the 49ers have yet to sign quarterback Alex Smith yet became very clear Friday when reports surfaced that the team not only has shown interest in free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning but were the first to watch him throw. ESPN reported on Friday that 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman flew to North Carolina on Tuesday to watch the 11-time Pro Bowl quarterback, who is recovering from multiple neck surgeries, throw and to give him a physical.
Until this point, the 49ers have been adamant that they only were interested in re-signing Smith, who is represented by the same agent, Tom Condon, that represents Manning. Condon would not have Smith, who guided the team to the NFC Championship game in January, sign with the 49ers if they were then going to sign Manning.
Asked Monday if he was disappointed that the 49ers were not in the hunt for Manning, team President Jed York said, “That’s not my choice. It’s up to the coaches.” York said there was ongoing dialogue between Smith and his representatives.
The 49ers have publicly backed Smith as their future quarterback since the end of the season. Smith actually caddied for Harbaugh during a golf event at Pebble Beach and the two commuted to and from the event from the South Bay Area. “We’re all in lockstep as an organization that Alex Smith is our guy,” Harbaugh said at the time.
Later that month, general manager Trent Baalke was asked about the team’s quarterback composition. “We’re very comfortable with the younger guys. And it remains to be seen what we’re going to be able to get done with Alex (Smith), but feel very comfortable there as well. It’s not something that Jim or I or anyone else in the organization are real stressed out about.”
The Broncos, Titans and Cardinals also are in the running for Manning. The Denver Post, which to its credit identified the 49ers as a “mystery team” in the Manning hunt last week, reported Friday that the parameters of the Broncos’ offer to Manning were five years and $60 90 million.
Meanwhile, Smith last week said he was confident a deal with the 49ers would be completed and that the two sides merely were working on the details. It’s unknown whether Smith knew of the 49ers’ interest in Manning at the time those comments were made, but that is likely considering the quarterbacks share the same agent. If Manning were to sign with the 49ers, Smith could end up in Seattle, which was interested in him a year ago, or on another club in search of a quarterback: Arizona, Cleveland or Miami.