Alex Smith has been throwing a football for the past two weeks and is on track to be at full strength for the team's first minicamp. Which team's minicamp? That still remains to be seen, but it seems more and more likely that Smith will wind up with the 49ers next season.
Smith has two hurdles this offseason: shoulder and salary. As far as the first, the area of Smith's shoulder that fractured just before the regular season finally has mended, and Smith was cleared by doctors to resume throwing. The thinking in the organization is that this year's comeback won't be nearly as arduous as last year's when Smith had surgery in late December to essentially reattach his shoulder and collar bone. Smith currently is doing some light tossing. He should be able to air it out by late March or early April.
As for the second hurdle, I spoke with Smith's agent, Tom Condon, at the Senior Bowl. Condon said he has had no discussions with the 49ers at this point about Smith's salary for 2009 - he's scheduled to earn a base salary of $10 million - and said those talks probably wouldn't begin until the 49ers' new offensive staff is in place. Condon bristled when it was suggested that it was forgeone conclusion that Smith would have to accept a more picayune paycheck in 2009. Still, Smith is on record as saying that he is open to remaining in San Francisco and that he "absolutely" would agree to a reduced salary.
On a related note ... it was reported this week that the reason Scott Linehan turned down the 49ers' offensive coordinator job was because he wasn't enamored with the team's quarterback prospects for 2009 and beyond. I agree that Linehan's explanation for spurning the job - family reasons - rings hollow considering he had two interviews in Santa Clara and in light of the fact that he has since agreed to interview for the Buccaneers opening. But quarterback play seems like an odd rationale. For one thing, Tampa Bay's quarterback situation isn't any sturdier than San Francisco's, especially if the Bucs lose potential free-agent Jeff Garcia (who could wind up in SF). The New York Jets' situation - another possible destination at the time that Linehan declined the 49ers - is just as tenuous.
Linehan was jazzed about Smith, whom he has known since Smith was a little boy, when Smith came out in the 2005 draft. He also was Shaun Hill's offensive coordinator in Minnesota. Is Hill the second coming of John Elway? No, but Linehan seemed to do just fine in 2005 when he was the Dolphins coordinator. His quarterbacks that season: Gus Frerotte and Sage Rosenfels.
-- Matt Barrows