If Alex Smith were a bad quarterback or a faultier person, the 49ers already would have let him go without a blink or full explanation.

That is what Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke did with running back Brandon Jacobs near the end of last season, remember?

Jacobs got hurt, got passed over, complained on social media, got suspended, and then he was gone, goodbye.

Smith is an entirely different case with immensely more credibility in the 49ers' locker room, of course.

He still is only 28, has proved he can win as an NFL starting quarterback and has earned the respect of his teammates; and Smith wants to go to a team that will give him a chance to start next season.

Which all puts increasing weight on the 49ers' pending decision on Smith's future, due any week now.

Really, beyond the roster strategies, there is one broad conclusion about this one:

If the 49ers force Smith to stay and back up Colin Kaepernick, they will be treading into very awkward territory.