Swapping Alex Smith gives 49ers flexibility 

By freeing up the salary owed to Alex Smith over the next two seasons and acquiring draft picks, the 49ers struck gold in trading the former No. 1 overall pick to Kansas City. - GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO
  • Getty Images File Photo
  • By freeing up the salary owed to Alex Smith over the next two seasons and acquiring draft picks, the 49ers struck gold in trading the former No. 1 overall pick to Kansas City.

With the exception of the final three plays of the Super Bowl, the 49ers seem to score a touchdown with every decision they make these days.

As first reported by Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, followed by many other outlets, the Niners have sewn up a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs that will send Alex Smith packing when the new league year starts March 12. In return, the 49ers will receive a second-round pick (No. 34 overall) in this year’s draft and a conditional midround pick next year.

Two words: great deal.

If you believe ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and the rest of the experts, the 2013 NFL draft is one of the deepest ever, so the caliber of player the 49ers can select at No. 34 isn’t too much different from what they’d get in the No. 10 slot, which really increases the value of this trade. And remember, this selection is in addition to the No. 31 pick and the 13 other choices that the 49ers already hold.

Some will say the 49ers should use this extra pick to move up, but considering the depth of this draft, the team will probably be better off if it stays put. This trade will allow the Niners to draft a dynamic wide receiver without neglecting the holes they need to plug on the defensive side.

Long before the confetti started raining down in the Superdome, it became apparent that Vic Fangio’s defense needs help upfront. As soon as Justin Smith tore his left triceps, the pass rush and the run defense were suddenly fallible.

Kiper considers 14 defensive linemen to be worthy first-round picks this year, which means the 49ers should be able to hook a franchise pass rusher at No. 31 or No. 34.

But Fangio needs help in the secondary, too. Cornerback Chris Culliver is a dead man walking and Niners general manager Trent Baalke could nab a competent corner with one of these picks.

The 49ers have options, though. By dumping the remaining $18.5 million on Smith’s contract, the team has more than enough cap space to go after top-notch players — such as cornerbacks Darrelle Revis or Nnamdi Asomugha — through a trade. In fact, Yahoo Sports on Wednesday reported the Niners are already looking into acquiring Revis from the New York Jets. And since rookie corners tend to get picked on in this league, it might be best to obtain a defensive lineman through the draft and a defensive back through a trade or free agency so that you have a shutdown veteran who is ready to go for Week 1.

If the 49ers follow this formula, they’ll be in position to grab an explosive receiver with one of their first two picks. This means they would probably land someone like Cal’s Keenan Allen or USC’s Robert Woods.

Can you imagine, for instance, adding Allen’s size (6-foot-2, 206 pounds) and speed (4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash) to an offense that already features Colin Kaepernick, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, Frank Gore and LaMichael James?

Either way, the beauty of this trade is that it gives the front office plenty of flexibility, and judging by Baalke’s recent performance, he’ll put the ball in the end zone whatever he decides to do.

Paul Gackle is a regular contributor to The San Francisco Examiner and also writes at www.gacklereport.com. He can be reached at paul.gackle@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @GackleReport.

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Paul Gackle

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