49ers prepared to send Smith to Chiefs

McClatchy news servicesFebruary 28, 2013 

Alex Smith quietly stayed behind the scenes after losing his starting position, watching from the sideline as San Francisco returned to the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years. Yet the No. 1 overall draft pick from 2005 did make one thing known: The veteran quarterback still considers himself a starter.

He hoped to get that chance again. Now, he appears to have it.

The Kansas City Chiefs have agreed to acquire Smith in the first major acquisition since Andy Reid took over as the team’s coach in early January, a person with knowledge of the trade said Wednesday.

The deal cannot become official until March 12, when the NFL’s new business year begins. Another person familiar with the trade said the 49ers will get a second-round pick in April’s draft, No. 34 overall, and a conditional pick in the 2014 draft.

After spending his first eight up-and-down years with the 49ers, Smith will get a welcome new start. The Chiefs will get the proven play-caller they hope can help turn things around under a new coach much the way Smith did under Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco.

“You never know when your opportunity’s going to come,” Smith said late in the season. “The good ones are ready when they do come.”

Smith realized that his time in San Francisco might be ending once Colin Kaepernick emerged as a capable starter over the season’s final two months.

With Smith now headed for Kansas City, Matt Cassel is likely headed out of town. And Reid will enter his first draft as Chiefs coach in April no longer needing to search for a quarterback.

Cassel, who was acquired by recently fired general manager Scott Pioli, has two years left on a $63 million, six-year deal. He will likely be cut once Smith is acquired.

Cassel was benched last season in favor of Brady Quinn, who is a free agent after going 1-7 as the starter.

Smith, 28, was among the league leaders in passer rating (104.1) when he got hurt last season.

He sustained a concussion in the second quarter of a 24-24 tie against St. Louis on Nov. 11, giving Kaepernick a chance to be the starter. Kaepernick dazzled in his first NFL start, beating the Bears handily at home on Monday Night Football, and eventually led the 49ers to the NFC championship and a 34-31 loss to Baltimore in the Super Bowl.

Now the 49ers will be looking for Kaepernick’s backup.

EXTRA POINTS

Rather than risk another injury, defensive end Chris Kelsay decided to retire after 10 seasons with the Bills. He began considering retirement after tearing a ligament in his neck during practice. He missed seven of Buffalo’s final eight games and finished on the injured reserve list. A starter since 2004, he finished with 321/2 career sacks to rank ninth in team history. … The NFL says it will look into whether questions asked of players at the scouting combine violated any laws or league policies banning employers from inquiring about a possible employee’s sexual orientation. Colorado tight end Nick Kasa told ESPN Radio in Denver that “(Teams) ask you, like, ‘Do you have a girlfriend?’ ‘Are you married?’ ‘Do you like girls?’ ” … The Giants agreed to a five-year contract with left tackle Will Beatty. … A prosecutor in Illinois said he will not pursue marijuana possession charges against Bears offensive lineman J’Marcus Webb, who was charged after a traffic stop Sunday.

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