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49ers' Smith gets new contract, but little security

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In the end, Alex Smith made the right decision, returning to the only NFL team he's ever known.

Smith's San Francisco journey hasn't always been smooth, but the quarterback's career has become a study in perseverance. Smith stayed in the picture, even when others were trying to faze him out.

“We are pleased that Alex has chosen to continue his career as a 49er,” general manager Trent Baalke said Tuesday after the Niners announced the deal on their official website. “His contributions were instrumental to our success in 2011, and we look forward to the continued growth of our offense under his leadership.”

A productive and remarkably mistake-free season earned Smith another paycheck ... but not much in the way of longterm security. Smith signed a three-year deal, but the Niners can easily escape from the pact after 2012 and 2013. As NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora pointed out, the Niners owe Smith up to $9.25 million next season. The team can cut the cord after that.

All of this means Smith -- despite all he did for the Niners in 2011 -- will have to prove himself again next season. It's probably not the deal Smith believes he deserved, but hey, it still beats playing for the Dolphins.

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