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With The End Of The NFL Lockout Impending, How Close Are Alex Smith And The 49ers?

So by all accounts, Alex Smith is going to return to the 49ers for at least another season once the lockout is lifted. He's really the team's only option outside of David Carr and Colin Kaepernick ... so again, he's "basically" the team's only option going forward. Whether that's a good thing or not remains to be seen, it could be the time when you get back together with your ex and something clicks this time around. Or it could be nearing Brandon Marshall levels of self-destructive. That is to say, Marshall was involved in multiple domestic disturbances with a certain lady friend ... and then they got married after the fact. Long story short, Marshall ended up being stabbed.

So there's that.

With all this talk of the lockout nearing its end, agreements potentially in place and billionaires shaking hands with millionaires, free agency is a real, tangible thing for our immediate future. Since Jim Harbaugh was brought in (immediately following Harbaughmageddon) as the 49ers head coach, we've heard him gush about Smith and his ability to play the quarterback position. Harbaugh's flattery got him everywhere, and the Alex Smith that laughed in the face of a reporter in week seventeen last season was replaced with one who had done everything but put his name on a contract that didn't technically exist yet.

One has to wonder though, how far along have the two really discussed anything? Obviously, they haven't been allowed to negotiate an actual, factual contract at this point (unless the small window when the lockout was lifted during the 2011 NFL Draft counts, which it probably doesn't officially), so what if Smith is after some big dollar signs? Could 49ers fans be in for a drawn-out free agent signing?

The general consensus seems to be that bringing Smith back for one year is the best bet, with some folks suggesting two. Any more than that is downright silliness and would be master bargaining on the part of Smith and his agents, but what's the dollar amount going to be like? When it all comes down to it, Harbaugh's flattery won't take the place of a potentially lucrative deal elsewhere (made lucrative by juicy incentives, of course), so the two sides will have to sit down and figure something out.

But how close to you think they already are? I wouldn't be surprised if they both have an idea, and I wouldn't be surprised if they were "familiar" with whatever idea the other had. It's just a matter of time. It will be very interesting to see if Smith signs on the dotted line as soon as the lockout is lifted and teams can re-sign their free agents. It's looking like there will be a 72-hour period where teams get a chance to work on their own guys, and hopefully it won't take that entire 72-hours.