It has been a lousy offseason for the Miami Dolphins. They didn’t get the coach they wanted in Jeff Fisher, who instead chose a St. Louis Rams team that won two games last season. And they didn’t get Peyton Manning, who didn’t even seriously consider the Fins. Miami also lost out on free agent QB Matt Flynn even though he played in Green Bay under new Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin.
And the rejections have continued as 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, after visiting Miami, has decided to return to the 49ers even though the team was publicly courting Manning as well. Smith agreed to a three-year, $24 million deal and will be the team’s starter in 2012 after leading the Niners to the NFC title game a season ago.
There has been speculation that the bumpy road to this signing had adversely affected the previously tight relationship between coach Jim Harbaugh and Smith, who reportedly met for an hour Monday. As he left the team facility Tuesday night, Harbaugh dismissed the notion, while declining to discuss specifics of the negotiations with Smith.
“[The relationship’s] been good — strong relationship, as always,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a very strong relationship.”
After six largely disappointing seasons, Smith changed in 2011, his first season with Harbaugh. Playing on a one-year contract with a base salary of $4.9 million, he ranked ninth in the NFL in quarterback rating (90.7), set a franchise record for interception percentage (1.1) and led five fourth-quarter comebacks, which included a 36-32 win over the Saints in the NFC divisional playoffs.
Given his performance, the team’s contract offer didn’t appear to reflect his market value. Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, who ranked 22nd in the NFL in quarterback rating (79.1) last season, was signed to a six-year, $59 million contract with $24 million guaranteed in October. On Sunday, Seattle signed former Green Bay backup Flynn, who has two career starts, to a three-year, $26 million deal with $10 million guaranteed.
Colin Kaepernick, a second-round pick last year, remains No. 2. Before free agency, Harbaugh had said that Smith was “our guy.” And now? “Nothing’s changed,” Harbaugh said.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, will enter the season with Matt Moore and David Garrard, who missed last season after being cut by Jacksonville, to battle for the starting QB job.