INDIANAPOLIS: If the Browns want offensive coordinator Norv Turner and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith to reunite in Cleveland, they’ll likely need to pull off a trade.
49ers General Manager Trent Baalke said Thursday during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium that the organization is considering trading Smith. The Browns could pursue Smith, 28, this offseason because owner Jimmy Haslam vowed last month to create competition for incumbent starting quarterback Brandon Weeden, 29, the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft.
When asked whether the 49ers plan to trade Smith, Baalke said: “That’s part of it. We’re going to look at all options available. Are we going to trade him for sure? No, that hasn’t been decided.”
Smith, of course, would rather be able to test the market as a free agent. However, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported it’s highly unlikely the 49ers will release Smith. During an appearance on NFL 32, Mortensen also speculated a fourth-round draft pick might be enough to get Smith.
Smith suffered a concussion Nov. 11 against the St. Louis Rams and lost his starting job to Colin Kaepernick, who ultimately led the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Smith had completed 26-of-28 passes before he got hurt and finished the season with a record of 6-2-1 as a starter. But Smith’s $8.5 million salary for 2013 will become guaranteed if he’s on the roster April 1, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the 49ers parted with him.
Baalke said he went to dinner with Smith and his wife, Liz, after the 49ers lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.
“Had a great conversation, had a great dinner,” Baalke said. “Just a chance to sit down with him and go through what our thoughts were and listen to what their thoughts were as a family and really get an understanding of what direction we wanted to go.
“We had a great discussion. I can’t say enough good things. If you ask anyone in our organization, they’re going to say the same thing — he’s a pro’s pro. I have nothing but great respect for him and his family. We’re certainly going to do everything in our power to make the best decision for everyone involved.”
During the week before the Super Bowl, Smith made it clear he believes recapturing a starting role is best for him.
“I want to play football,” Smith told reporters. “I’m not hiding that fact. I love this team. I love being a part of it and of what’s going on. But I want to play football.”
Before Turner started his seven-season stint as the coach of the San Diego Chargers, he served as the 49ers’ offensive coordinator in 2006, a year after Smith was drafted No. 1 overall out of Utah. Smith had a passer rating of 40.8 (one touchdown and 11 interceptions) as a rookie. With Turner’s help, it improved to 74.8 (16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions) the following season.
“[Turner] gave you freedom as a quarterback to go out there and if you saw something to take risks, take shots and things like that,” Smith said. “He wasn’t necessarily so rigid that you couldn’t do that, but it was fun. It was fun to play in that system because if the system worked for you, you felt like there were plays out there. It was fun.
“Loved my time with Norv. [It was] a very, very friendly QB system. ... He’s a great play caller. I just remember he had a great feel for the game on game day and a great feel for what the defense was doing.”
Miami Dolphins backup quarterback Matt Moore also has been tied to Turner and the Browns. The Miami Herald reported Turner is a big fan of Moore, who went 6-6 as a starter in 2011 before being supplanted by Ryan Tannehill, the eighth overall pick in last year’s draft.
Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland said he would like to re-sign Moore, who is scheduled to become a free agent March 12.
“There’s a lot of reasons why you want Matt back on the football team,” Ireland said at the combine. “Matt’s been an outstanding teammate, a good mentor for [starting quarterback] Ryan [Tannehill]. … So there’s a lot of [reasons] why you would want him back on the football team.”
The Browns also have been linked to Chase Daniel of the New Orleans Saints, Brian Hoyer of the Arizona Cardinals and Derek Anderson of the Carolina Panthers, other quarterbacks who are set to become free agents. The Browns could select a quarterback at some point in the draft, though most draft analysts predict they’ll use the sixth overall choice on a defender.
As for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, coach Chip Kelly and General Manager Howie Roseman insisted they do not intend to trade him.
“We like the player, we like a lot of things about the player, he’s a young player in the league and we’re trying to accumulate good players,” Roseman said at the combine. “We’re not in the business of trying to get rid of our good young players.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.