Early in my career here, I've tried not to comment on topics without reading the entire threat but this one is impossible - so feel free to blast me or ban me or whatever. On to my thoughts...
1 -from a free agent only perspective, Alex Smith is probably the #1 available quarterback, regardless of what you think of him. Numerous teams will surely be bidding for him as their backup.
2 - Via trade, it appears the lucrative options are Kolb, Palmer, and McNabb.
a) the Eagles have subtley leaked that they want 2 first round pick for him; clearly no team would do this, it is a blatant maneuver to drive up his asking price. He can likely be had for low 1st or high 2nd. This price tag is still debatable as Kolb, while showing flashes of brilliance, is certainly untested as an NFL QB. Furthermore, trading for him at that price means you are certainly committing to him for at least a couple of years to justify the price. Long story short, Kolb is a ricky trade at best.
b)Palmer - The Bengals are claiming they won't trade, which drives up his price unless he hires Rosenhaus as his agent and he tanks himself. His value is questionable anyways - a couple bad seasons, some face-palm mistakes, consistently declining production. Even if we got him, he would be merely a place holder until the QB we eventually draft is ready. Worth a 4th or 5th round pick? Maybe. Worth the 2nd or 3rd the Bungles may be asking? Probably not.
c)McNabb - roughly the same situation as Palmer only he has a better resume and a (likely) lower asking price. However, he also may be tanking harder. He could probably be had for a 4th or 5th rounder, but our draftee or other FA signing may beat him out for the job.
3- the Draft. No QB in this class is anything close to a sure thing. The 2 sure-fire 1st rounders (Gabbert and Newton) have capital M Major question marks, and past that it is basically a crap shoot. No QB in this class possesses all the traits that the savior, Harbaugh, looks for in a QB.
Long story short (too late) Harbaugh may realize that,with the current labor situation, Alex Smith may realistically and practically be our best option as far as 2011/2012 goes. There is no better FA QB, the trade options will likely cost more than their true value, and the draft is most likely to net us a long term developmental QB.
So the question is not really WHY BRING ALEX SMITH BACK??? but more, why not bring him back?
Edit - didn't really make my point here: the available opportunities to upgrade our QB position are all risky, and I feel that most of them are too costly in terms of draft picks vs. reward. So utimately in a risk v. reward scenario, he might be the safest choice, as he will cost us nothing other than money and opportunity cost, which I don't deem to be particularly high.
[ Edited by Digger on Feb 18, 2011 at 6:14 PM ]