49ers mum on Smith’s contract status

The San Francisco 49ers are on record that they’d prefer not to use the franchise tag this offseason, but they also have a quarterback who could be a free agent.

And Alex Smith seemed to find himself and his niche last season.

GM Trent Baalke said San Francisco remains committed to re-signing Smith but offered no details on where things stand.

“We’re working hard to keep our guys in place,” Baalke said. “There’s a lot of thing that go on in the negotiation process. We don’t talk about where we are individually with any of our players contractually. All I can say is we want to keep our group together. We’re going to do whatever we can from a financial standpoint to do that.”

Smith’s numbers weren’t overwhelming, but he had his best season since being the first overall pick in the 2005 draft, throwing for 3,144 yards and 17 touchdowns.

But Baalke said the most important job of a quarterback is to win, and Smith won 13 games in the regular season and brought the 49ers back in a furious playoff win over New Orleans and lost the NFC Championship Game in overtime. With Jim Harbaugh as coach, Smith had a 17-touchdown, five-interception season and won more games as a starter than he had in the three previous seasons combined.

The difference for Smith, other than a new coach?

“From my perspective, No. 1, comfort,” Baalke said. “Really having a very good comfort level with what he was being asked to do. And the things he was being asked to do really fit into his makeup and his skill sets. That’s no different from any other player, any other position.

“When you ask them to do what they’re capable of doing, you usually have successful results. When you’re asking players to do what they can’t do, you usually have unsuccessful situations. That’s all we’re trying to do. We’re trying to bring guys into the system because not every player fits every system.”