By Matthew Barrows The Sacramento Bee
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Alex Smith appears closer to leaving the 49ers next month after reports this week linked him to the spot where many former San Francisco quarterbacks seem to end up — Kansas City.
League sources said Monday the 49ers are not locked into a deal but that team officials have told others at the scouting combine in Indianapolis that they are confident a trade will be made and that they plan to have 15 picks in the April draft.
They have 11 selections with three more expected next month as compensation for losing free agents a year ago. The 15th pick ostensibly would come in a deal for Smith.
No trades can be finalized until the league calendar begins March 12, and the 49ers will keep the trade window open until that point. Three days after that, however, the 49ers will owe Smith a $1 million roster bonus. If he remains on the roster on April 1, they will owe him his full $8.5 million salary.
Joe Montana and Steve Bono both went to Kansas City after playing for the 49ers, and former 49ers quarterbacks Steve DeBerg and Elvis Grbac also had stints with the Chiefs.
Kansas City makes sense for Smith, especially after new general manager John Dorsey said in Indianapolis that he didn’t think there were any first round-caliber quarterbacks in the draft. The Chiefs have the No. 1 pick, and their two starting quarterbacks in 2012 — Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn — combined for just two wins and a 63.9 passer rating. Smith has made it clear he wants a chance at a starting job.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid also may have had his eye on Smith dating back to last year. ESPN’s Trent Dilfer, a former teammate of Smith’s, told The Chronicle last month that Reid was interested in Smith when Smith was a free agent in 2012 and Reid was coaching the Eagles.
Smith was one of the league’s top quarterbacks before he suffered a concussion Nov. 11.
He led the 49ers to a 6-2 record, completed 70 percent of his pass attempts – better than any full-time starter in 2012 – and had a 104.1 passer rating. His last attempt before the concussion was a touchdown to Michael Crabtree, and in his last full game he completed 18 of 19 passes and threw three touchdowns in a 24-3 win over the Cardinals.
A week after the concussion, Smith watched as Colin Kaepernick lead the 49ers in a rout over the Bears. Smith never regained his starting job.
The 49ers have been mum about their plans for Smith, but on Friday Jim Harbaugh said for the first time that a trade is possible. He said the team also could retain Smith as a high-priced backup behind Kaepernick.
“Alex is an excellent football player,” Harbaugh said. “Alex is playing the best football of his career the last two years. We think we have the best quarterback situation in the National Football League. (I) feel strongly about that.”
Holding onto Smith, however, seems unlikely considering the 49ers have two valuable players, safety Dashon Golson and tight end Delanie Walker, scheduled to become free agents on March 12.
Goldson wants to be among the highest-paid safeties in the league and Walker will expect to be paid like a starting tight end.