It’s been a forgone conclusion for many throughout the offseason that Alex Smith would return for a chance to win back his starting job with the 49ers under new coach Jim Harbaugh, who openly campaigned on the idea.
While it’s not a done deal — Smith will be an unrestricted free agent when league transactions are allowed — Harbaugh is now leaving little to the imagination as to the team’s intentions.
“It’s well documented, on record, that we very much want Alex Smith to be a 49er next year,” Harbaugh told NFL Network’s Fran Charles. “He really is a 49er in my mind, and hopefully in his mind he is a 49er. We look forward to him competing for that starting quarterback position next year.”
Harbaugh falls short of naming Smith the starter, but his return is a logical step for both sides. Rookie Colin Kaepernick could have a role, but won’t be ready to start. Harbaugh and Smith spent time together before the lockout, presumably a chance for Smith to get familiar with Harbaugh’s playbook in what now looks to be a shortened offseason. It also might represent the best opportunity for Smith to start, rather than enter into a totally unfamiliar system and locker room next season.
To tie a bow on the situation, it appears the feeling is mutual. Smith told CSNBayArea.com on Tuesday he’s likely to return.