According to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk, Smith has a clear preference. A source with knowledge of the situation tells Florio that Smith is expected to ask for his release before free agency.
The 49ers seem somewhat unlikely to listen to Smith's wishes. Why not try to trade him? Smith should be an attractive trade chip despite the $8.5 million he's due to earn next year.
Smith has been a good soldier for the team, so he could earn special consideration. But let's not make him into a martyr. Smith was given a monster $49.5 million contract as the No. 1 pick of the 2005 draft. The 49ers didn't ask for money back from that deal while Smith mostly underperformed.
The soft deadline on a possible deal: April 1. Smith will be guaranteed his 2013 salary at that point, and interested teams will want to know if they are getting Smith even earlier than that because free agency starts March 12.