Johnson is logical move if Smith isn't signed

March 9, 2012, 7:55 pm
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So how do the 49ers proceed if, when free agency opens Tuesday at 1 p.m., quarterback Alex Smith remains unsigned?Some have wondered whether the 49ers would place a phone call to Tom Condon, the agent who represents both Smith and Peyton Manning, and attempt to get in on the Manning Sweepstakes.What about Matt Flynn, the capable backup who saw action here and there for the Green Bay Packers behind Aaron Rodgers?The more likely scenario would be for Jim Harbaugh to attempt to reunite with a quarterback from his past.
Josh Johnson, who played for Harbaugh at the University of San Diego, is looking for an opportunity to compete for a job. He probably wasn't going to get that chance with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, even though Josh Freeman struggled last year after a fine 2010 season.Johnson completed 19 of 36 passes for 246 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions with the Buccaneers last season. He is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday.Meanwhile, the 49ers and Smith remain apart on the contract particulars while both sides have made it clear they want the union to continue.As first reported in early December, the 49ers want to sign Smith to a short-term contract without a huge financial commitment. Smith, whom Harbaugh said was an "elite quarterback," wants a commitment of guaranteed money that reflects those words.But the 49ers want the door to remain open for Colin Kaepernick to eventually take over as the starter. After all, the 49ers did not trade up to select Kaepernick in the second round last year so that he could be a career backup.That's why a quick strike for Johnson in free agency makes sense.Johnson will not warrant a large financial commitment. And Harbaugh has repeatedly said that every position will be earned through competition -- including quarterback.If the 49ers were to sign Johnson, they could still bring back Smith, continue to groom Kaepernick and see what happens as those three quarterbacks -- and Scott Tolzien -- work through the offseason and training camp.