Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold passes against the New England Patriots during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The biggest news for the 49ers on the opening day of the free agency negotiating period was agreeing to terms with defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, another high-profile, top-dollar star to go along with Trent Williams, Chrisitan McCaffrey, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Fred Warner, Arik Armstead and Charvarius Ward.

The 49ers aren’t afraid of big names and big contracts.

But as OTAs give way to training camp, the preseason, the regular season and beyond, the most significant Day 1 acquisition could be the insurance policy coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch are planning on purchasing in quarterback Sam Darnold.

The same Sam Darnold who, like Trey Lance, was the No. 3 overall pick of an NFL Draft. The same Darnold who lasted three ineffective seasons with the New York Jets and couldn’t seize the moment in 2021-22 with the Carolina Panthers.

Darnold reportedly agreeing to terms on a one-year deal brought a collective groan from a segment of 49ers fans in social media. Yet this isn’t Blaine Gabbert coming in to a helpless situation in the post-Jim Harbaugh disasters of Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly, a franchise with little talent and less direction in terms of vision on offense.

Darnold, who turns 26 in June, is a far better option than looking for a veteran, well-past-his-prime, just-in-case caretaker such as Matt Ryan. If Brock Purdy has any issues rehabbing his right elbow and Lance either gets hurt again or is ineffective, Darnold makes a lot of sense.

Last year, the 49ers kept Jimmy Garoppolo aboard as an insurance policy for Lance. They were intrigued enough by Purdy to keep him on the roster but unaware the final pick of the draft could be so impactful. As it turned out, they needed more than three quarterbacks.

With Garoppolo joining the Raiders, this year’s policy is Darnold. It speaks well of Darnold’s long-term judgment that he’d jump at the chance to sign with the 49ers on Day 1 rather than see if he could sneak in as someone’s starter on a bad team in this year’s version of quarterback musical chairs.

Even if Darnold never sees the field, having a year in the 49ers system will be good for his career in entering free agency again next year. And if disaster strikes the 49ers again at the most important position in professional sports, who’s to say Darnold couldn’t replicate what Garoppolo and Purdy did in 2022 after Lance went …read more

Source:: The Mercury News


Why 49ers’ addition of Sam Darnold is no small-time deal

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