NaVorro Bowman contract extension: Does LB signing increase chances of Alex Smith being cut/traded?

Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE

Could NaVorro Bowman's five-year contract extension increase the chances of the San Francisco 49ers parting ways with Alex Smith this offseason?

On Tuesday, the San Francisco 49ers gave linebacker NaVorro Bowman a five-year contract extension that will keep him with the team through 2018. It's a huge deal, as the 49ers have all of their starting linebackers signed through at least 2015, with inside partner and perennial Pro Bowler Patrick Willis signed through 2016.

Many were questioning whether or not Bowman would even get an extension over the past few months, as that would be a lot of money tied up into one position. Some referenced the strong play of Dashon Goldson as a reason for not extending Bowman, calling two All-Pro inside linebackers on the same team a "luxury."

Now, according to NFL.com's Albert Breer, the 49ers are set to give Bowman $45.25 million over the five-year extension, with guaranteed dollars of $25.5 million. These are huge numbers, but Bowman undoubtedly deserves them. But this still isn't the biggest news for the 49ers right now ...

That revolves around the quarterback position. Many are still wondering who the starting quarterback will be for Week 13, with many feeling that second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick is the guy. Alex Smith is set to make $7.5 million if he's on the roster on April 1. Some are questioning whether or not the Bowman extension affects Smith's standing.

The answer? It could.

It's not as cut-and-dry as one might think. Sure, that's a lot of money, but it's not like Bowman is set to make all of his contract in 2013. No, he's due about $540,000 in 2012 and given that it's an extension through 2018, the big dollars likely don't kick in until 2015 and later.

But the timeline is important here, as well. By all accounts, the 49ers were approached earlier in the season about an extension and the talks didn't go anywhere. Then Kaepernick makes two solid starts at quarterback, and now the deal is done? That's what is striking to most folks, and it's hard to argue with.

The line of thinking is that the money that would theoretically be owed to Smith could then go to someone else that might be getting left out due to Bowman's extension. The argument isn't that the money is going to Bowman, just that the 49ers committed a lot of money his way and might be looking for other ways to use $7.5 million to, say, frontload a contract.

Dashon Goldson is one player, off the top of the head. Donte Whitner, Carlos Rogers ... there are plenty of players who could use that chunk of money, and if the timeline has any part to play in all of this outside of coincidence and a sudden determination to get a deal done, then we could be looking at a possible quick extension for another player.

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