Yesterday at this time, Alex Smith was the No. 1 quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. That was all put into question Wednesday night with the report that Colin Kaepernick will start Sunday against the New Orleans Saints -- and possibly for the long haul.
NFL.com's Steve Wyche reported Thursday -- and 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman later confirmed -- that although Kaepernick is receiving first-team reps, nothing definitive has been determined about his status for Sunday. All of this raises questions about Smith's future with the 49ers.
Breer pointed out this week that the 49ers face a pivotal decision with Smith in March, when the quarterback is due a $1 million roster bonus. If the 49ers choose to pay the bonus, it speaks volumes about Smith's status for 2013. If Smith is on the roster April 1, the team is on the hook to pay his $7.5 million salary, which includes another potential $3 million in incentives.
The 49ers drafted Kaepernick to play. Coach Jim Harbaugh has sprinkled the young passer into game action all season, and Kaepernick appears to be the quarterback of the future in San Francisco. Harbaugh has stood by Smith early in his regime, but the picture is clear: The 49ers have been looking to replace the veteran all along.
We don't where this team will be after the season, but the 49ers aren't about to pay Smith $10 million-plus to hang around as Kaepernick's backup. The general feeling about Smith is that he's not a quarterback who terrifies you with his arm or athleticism -- Kaepernick has more of those qualities -- but plenty of teams would consider him an upgrade at the position.
Smith has completed 70 percent of his passes this season -- remarkable numbers in the NFL. Maybe not good enough for Harbaugh, who's hell-bent on tweaking this roster into Super Bowl material, but Smith wouldn't have a problem finding work in 2013. If, of course, the 49ers move on.
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.