San Francisco 49ers
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It took a week into free agency and a red-eye visit to the Miami Dolphins before quarterback Alex Smith apparently agreed Tuesday to return to the 49ers.

It also took a few awkward turns, from the 49ers’ covert courting of Peyton Manning to Smith’s balking at the 49ers’ original offer of a three-year, $24 million contract.

Smith accepted roughly those same terms, according to ESPN.

Now he can resume a topsy-turvy tenure that began in 2005 as the No. 1 overall draft pick and climaxed with last season’s run to the NFC Championship game.

Smith was not available for comment, and the 49ers confirm deals only after contracts have been signed and ratified. That is expected to happen Wednesday.

Coach Jim Harbaugh declined to discuss Smith’s contract process, but he told CSN Bay Area that “nothing’s changed” in his “very strong” relationship with Smith.

Last season, Smith produced a career-best year upon Harbaugh’s arrival, helping the 49ers to a 14-4 overall record, the NFC West title and a berth in the NFC title game, where they fell 20-17 in overtime to the New York Giants.

On Sunday, Smith took a red-eye flight to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., spent six hours at the Dolphins’ facility and reportedly entered into contract negotiations with the AFC East doormat.

On Monday, 49ers CEO Jed York reiterated the company line: “We have a contract on the table, and it’s up to him. We’d like for him to be here, and we’ll see where it goes.”

Rather than interfere, York said he was going to let Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke solve the 49ers’ quarterback quandary.

Smith returns to a quarterback unit that also includes Colin Kaepernick and Scott Tolzien, last season’s rookie backups.

Looking to join that mix is former Tampa Bay Buccaneers backup Josh Johnson, who was coached by Harbaugh at the University of San Diego

“It’s a great organization, and they were a great team last year, so most definitely I would,” Johnson, an Oakland native, said of the 49ers.

In a phone interview from his home in Tampa, Fla., Johnson said the 49ers have been in contact with his agent, Adam Heller, and that a visit to the 49ers facility could occur this week. The NFL Network reported that Johnson will take a Wednesday visit to the Washington Redskins. Heller did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Johnson thought his visit to the 49ers might be contingent upon Smith’s status. Regardless of Smith’s re-enlistment, Johnson is interested in coming home to the Bay Area, having grown up in Oakland and attended Oakland Tech High School.

“Yeah, if it’s the right situation,” Johnson said. “No matter where you go, there’ll be competition. You have to hope a team gives you the best opportunity to put your best foot forward. The 49ers, they came within a quarter (or overtime) of the Super Bowl.”

Last week, Manning emerged as a 49ers candidate until he opted Monday for the Denver Broncos.

“When the two of us started to talk, I very easily could have seen myself being a 49er,” Manning told the NFL Network. “That’s why it was so hard.”

Manning’s move prompted brief speculation that 2011 Broncos phenom Tim Tebow could be on the 49ers’ radar. “Tebow’s not coming here,” York said Tuesday.

Asked to comment on the 49ers’ quarterback situation Tuesday morning as he left the facility, Baalke replied: “Later. I’ve got to get to a meeting. I’m in a hurry.”

As it turns out, Baalke has Smith back in his quarterback stable, the latest step in a busy March that’s included the arrival of receiving targets Randy Moss and Mario Manningham. The 49ers also kept their entire starting defense intact, preventing the free-agency escape of cornerback Carlos Rogers, linebacker Ahmad Brooks and safety Dashon Goldson, who has been given the franchise tag of $6.2 million.

Smith’s return seemed certain after his playoff debut against the New Orleans Saints, when he both ran for a touchdown and completed a winning touchdown pass to Vernon Davis in the closing minutes of a 36-32 triumph.

Smith completed 24 of 42 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns in that win. In the NFC Championship game defeat, he was 12 of 26 for 196 yards with two touchdown passes.

The victory over the Saints was the 49ers’ sixth last season via a fourth-quarter comeback, including four on the road and a regular-season home triumph over the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

Smith threw 17 touchdown passes in starting every regular season game with only five interceptions in 445 regular-season attempts. He lost only two fumbles all season, and he had no interceptions after Thanksgiving, including 68 passes in the two playoffs games.

Overall, Smith passed for a career-high 3,144 yards and completed 61.3 percent of his passes. However, he did get sacked a league-high 44 times, and the 49ers ranked 29th in passing yards per game.

This latest contract is the fourth Smith has signed since being drafted. Last summer, he returned on a one-year deal that reportedly paid him $6.5 million, including $2.5 million through incentives.

– Ted Ginn Jr., a return specialist and part-time receiver for the 49ers since 2010, visited Tuesday with the Minnesota Vikings. He’s also been hosted by the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens.

– Geoff Schwartz, a former Carolina Panthers offensive lineman, visited the 49ers facility a day after doing so with the Vikings.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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