Smith, who floundered through injuries and a prolonged public argument with coach Mike Nolan last season, will compete with former third-stringer Shaun Hill and likely another veteran quarterback in training camp. But general manager Scot McCloughan showed the 49ers' feelings about Smith by overriding the language in Smith's contract that could have allowed him to become a free agent after next season by voiding the final two years of his deal.
"It just shows that we believe in him to be our guy," McCloughan said. "He and Shaun are going to go out there and compete, and the winner of that is going to be a good quarterback for us."
Smith has started 30 games in his three seasons with San Francisco, passing for 4,679 yards, 19 touchdowns and 31 interceptions while getting sacked 81 times.
His career passer rating is 63.5, but the former Utah star played while injured last season before undergoing surgery on his separated right shoulder in early December. Smith is scheduled to meet with Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., next week with hopes of being cleared to resume throwing.
McCloughan isn't certain who will compete with Smith and Hill for the starting job, but it's unlikely to be Trent Dilfer. The 14-year veteran hasn't officially retired, but McCloughan anticipates meeting soon with Nolan and Dilfer, whose season ended in December with the last of several concussions.
"If he wants to stick to the price we think he's worth, we'd love to have him back," McCloughan said.
McCloughan also warned fans not to expect the same excitement generated by the club during the NFL's free-agent signing period last season, when they inked cornerback Nate Clements and safety Michael Lewis to lucrative deals in the opening hours. McCloughan confirmed the 49ers are most interested in bolstering their defensive line.
"We don't feel like we have to go out and make a big splash right away," McCloughan said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press