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The Early Lead
Posted at 09:40 AM ET, 03/21/2012

Alex Smith returns to 49ers, agreeing to three-year deal


Coach Jim Harbaugh and Alex Smith, together again. (Paul Sakuma / AP)

After doing a little speed dating with others, just to see what was out there, the San Francisco 49ers and Alex Smith are back together again.

For, you know, the kids’ sake.

Smith and the team agreed to a three-year deal that the NFL Network reports will pay him about $8 million a year — terms that are similar to the offer the team made before free agency began March 13. Smith decided to see what else was out there and so did the 49ers, who took a look at and were rebuffed by Peyton Manning. Smith saw his options dwindle when the Miami Dolphins signed David Garrard.

It was just business, nothing personal and Coach Jim Harbaugh scoffed at the notion that there’d be any residual awkwardness. “[The relationship’s] been good — strong relationship, as always,” Harbaugh said (via Comcast Bay Area). “It's a very strong relationship.”

So Smith, 13-3 last year, will be back for his eighth season with the team. Colin Kaepernick, a second-round pick last year, remains No. 2. Before free agency, Harbaugh had said that Smith was “our guy.” And now? “Nothing’s changed,” Harbaugh said.

With Harbaugh as his coach Smith had a breakout season last year. He was ninth-best in passer rating at 90.7 and led five fourth-quarter comebacks. The Niners finished 13-3 and lost to the Giants in overtime in the NFC Championship game.

And now they start over again, with without any hard feelings. “The new nature of the relationship ... is the same as the old nature of the relationship,” Ray Ratto writes. “Smith cashes in one more time, promised the chance to cement his relationship as The Guy You Like Just Enough To Wish He Was Someone Else. And Harbaugh can dream of what was and what could have been while he puts the happy face on what is.

“If you think about it, nobody ends up looking bad here. The 49ers did their due-est diligence and made a run at a guy they couldn’t really pay for, and Smith didn’t burn any bridges while waiting for events to reveal themselves.”

By  |  09:40 AM ET, 03/21/2012

 
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