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New deal for 49ers QB Smith could be coming soon

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Dan Arkush
Executive editor

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Posted Dec. 23, 2011 @ 1:19 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

With head coach Jim Harbaugh endorsing Alex Smith for a Pro Bowl berth following the Week 15 win over Pittsburgh, in addition to saying that he did indeed envision Smith being the team's long-term quarterback, we hear a new contract for Smith is pretty much a done deal.

A recent report speculated that Smith would likely sign a two- to three-year contract for $8 million to $11 million annually — terms that are in line with what PFW has been hearing.

As for promising rookie backup Colin Kaepernick, it appears an Aaron Rodgers-like apprenticeship could be in the offing.

"The team had one flirtation with Matt Hasselbeck, but after deciding not to match Tennessee's offer, Harbaugh has been behind Alex all the way," one inside source said.

"Alex has impressed everybody with his toughness and the way he held the team together in offseason workouts. He is greatly admired by his teammates for the work he has put in learning this system, and the fan base seems to have come around to him because he said he wanted to stay here, despite a lot of hammering by the local media.

"Harbaugh has said it would take two full years for his quarterback to fully know his system, and Alex is only 27.  The way this team is built suits Alex's skill set. The quarterback doesn't have to throw for 300 yards a game. Because of great special teams and all the turnovers the defense forces, Alex is looking at working on a short field 2-3 times a game."

Smith has improved significantly in a number of areas, most notably his ability to hold on to the ball and cut down on his turnovers (only two fumbles despite being sacked more than any other QB in the league).

"No question he's made great progress in that regard," the insider said. "Early on, there was controversy over the size of his hands. He'd raise his arm, and the ball would come out. But his ability to hang on to the ball this season has been uncanny.

"Last year, he was always so frantic trying to move the ball. He tried to keep plays alive too long and got himself into bad situations. Now he understands that, if the team has to punt the ball away, so what? He will take a sack if he has to, rather than do anything that's going to lose a game."

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