L.G. Patterson, Associated Press
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) is congratulated by teammate quarterback Alex Smith on his 28-yard touchdown catch during the second quarter of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, in St. Louis.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Coach Jim Harbaugh has told 49ers quarterback Alex Smith the team plans to re-sign him beyond this season.
Smith, the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick out of Utah, received a $4.9 million, one-year contract as a free agent last July after the lockout — when many, including Smith himself, figured he'd be headed elsewhere following six up-and-down seasons. He has thrived under Harbaugh, a former NFL quarterback who recently endorsed Smith as the team's answer behind center moving forward.
"I've told Alex that," Harbaugh said Monday. "I wouldn't tell you (the media) something I wouldn't tell Alex.
"I told Alex, 'Hey, we're going to want you to come back here next year.' He's focused on the season, and that's where his mindset wants to be. And I totally respect that, and we'll talk about it and address it once the season is over. That's the way I understand it right now."
The 27-year-old Smith has thrown for 3,150 yards and 17 touchdowns with only five interceptions for the NFC West champion Niners (13-3), who earned the No. 2 playoff seed in the NFC and a first-round bye this week.
Smith is a big reason San Francisco finished with 10 total turnovers, which equaled the 2010 Patriots for fewest in NFL history since 1941.
Smith — booed from every direction during recent seasons at Candlestick Park — has said much of this season's success comes from him not trying to do too much in Harbaugh's West Coast offense.
He has shown the poise under pressure and decision making Harbaugh believed Smith still had in him when Harbaugh took over last January. Smith isn't ready to reflect on his resurgent 2011 season or the franchise's turnaround after going eight years without a playoff berth or winning record.
"You know, it's hard when you're still in the thick of it. It's probably a better question to ask me after the end of the season when everything is wrapped up," he said. "Right now there's still a lot on the line. Not quite time for me to reflect on anything. We've done some good things, putting ourselves in a good situation."
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Smith, who has played for a different offensive coordinator in each of his seven NFL seasons, has earned the confidence of his teammates. He went 21 for 31 for 219 yards in Sunday's regular-season finale, a 34-27 win at St. Louis.
"I firmly believe that Alex Smith can do nothing but just keep getting better," said tight end Vernon Davis, who had eight catches for 118 yards against the Rams.
"At this point ... all he can do is get better. If he's willing and that's what he wants. He wants to be successful and learn as much as he possibly can about this game and try to find ways to help this team get better down the road. I'm all for it. I'm a big supporter."