SANTA CLARA Creative Artists Agency represents nearly half of the NFL quarterbacks who were their team's primary starters last season. That number, however, is in danger of dropping by one in the coming days.
Alex Smith is considering firing agent Tom Condon, CAA's top sports agent, according to a report Saturday by SF Gate. Condon has represented Smith since the 49ers chose him first overall in the 2005 draft, and he has negotiated three contracts on Smith's behalf.
But Condon also represents Peyton Manning, and both quarterbacks are in play for the 49ers' starting job. There are doubts about whether Condon can work in Smith's best interest if his top client, Manning, is vying for the same opening.
Earlier this month, the 49ers offered Smith a three-year, $24 million contract that he still has not signed. That's the decidedly low end of the market for a starting quarterback.
Last year, for example, Kevin Kolb received a five-year, $63 million contract from Arizona. Last week, the Jets signed Mark Sanchez to a three-year, $40.5 million extension.
The market for Manning is even greater. The 49ers, Broncos and Titans are working under the parameters of the deal Manning cut last year with the Colts five years and $90 million.
The free-agency period began Tuesday, and there has been no indication that Condon has been trying to increase Smith's value by shopping him to another quarterback-needy team such as Seattle, Miami or Cleveland.
Smith had his best season last year under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh's tutelage, throwing 17 touchdown passes against five interceptions. His signature moments came in a division playoff game against the Saints when he produced two touchdowns one running, the other on a pass to Vernon Davis late in the game.
For the first time in seven seasons, his career was on track, and he appeared to have a particularly close relationship with Harbaugh, a former quarterback who referred to Smith as "elite" and who on several occasions said he and the 49ers were committed to Smith.
Smith, in turn, said he wanted to remain in San Francisco.
"I'm not disappointed about anything," Smith said of contract negotiations three days before free agency began. "It kind of is what it is right now. I'm not worried about anything. I'll just leave it at that."
Now there is cause for concern for Smith.
Team president Jed York noted Monday that talks continued with Smith's representatives, but he also said "the ball's in his court," a signal that the team is not budging from its three-year proposal.
On Tuesday, the 49ers for the first time publicly, at least wavered from their commitment to Smith when Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman flew to Durham, N.C., to talk to Manning and to watch him throw.
On Saturday, Titans officials, including general manager Ruston Webster and coach Mike Munchak, worked out Manning in Knoxville, Tenn.
Now the 49ers, Broncos and Titans await Manning's decision, which is expected Monday or Tuesday.