Sam Darnold Discusses 49ers Signing

A starter for most of the past five seasons, Sam Darnold is now in position to play a backup role. Of course, that is contingent on Brock Purdy both returning to full strength and sustaining the surprising form he showed during his 49ers rookie season.

But Darnold may already be looming as the 49ers’ top option in case Purdy is not ready for Week 1. Despite joining a team with Trey Lance and a player who has already become one of the most notable Mr. Irrelevant picks ever, Darnold could play a key role for a team that has ventured to the past two NFC championship games. Darnold and Lance split offseason reps, but the elder passer is believed to have an early lead in the QB2 competition.

A move back to his home state and the chance to join a team with a proven offensive system appealed to the former No. 3 overall pick. Darnold, 26, is now a fixture in another offseason featuring several updates on San Francisco’s quarterback situation.

Obviously, the organization, man, this past year was my first time hitting free agency. So kind of the first time I had a choice, really, and to be able to just see what their organization is like, that offense is like,” Darnold said during a Pardon My Take appearance (via’s David Bonilla).

“… Guys are open. I mean, there’s a lot of guys open on dang near every play. It just seems like there’s a ton of answers [regarding his 49ers decision]. Great run game. I mean, whenever you can have a great run game as a quarterback, that’s always a comforting feeling.”

Within hours of the legal tampering period opening, the 49ers gave Darnold a one-year, $4.5MM deal ($3.5MM guaranteed). The Panthers had begun talks on a deal to re-sign the 2021 trade acquisition, but days after that report surfaced, the team moved to obtain the No. 1 overall pick from the Bears. Andy Dalton is now in place as Bryce Young‘s backup/bridge option.

Darnold had moments in Carolina, but injuries and the Matt Rhule-backed Baker Mayfield trade interrupted any momentum. The Jets were also unable to build a quality team around the USC alum, who started 38 games for the team from 2018-20. Darnold certainly fared better than the quarterback the Jets brought in to replace him (Zach Wilson), and the sixth-year passer will try to enhance his value on a proven team. Darnold did not play in the Kyle Shanahan system Mike LaFleur installed, as those two figures barely overlapped (in 2021) in the Big Apple. But that offense attracted the formerly coveted prospect to the Bay Area.

Darnold did not debut until Nov. 27 last season, missing time with a high ankle sprain and waiting behind Mayfield before retaking the Panthers’ reins. The team relied more on Christian McCaffrey replacement D’Onta Foreman during this stretch, with Darnold throwing more than one touchdown pass once in six starts. The team did go 4-2 behind Darnold, however. The 49ers, of course, feature better weaponry, with McCaffrey’s arrival giving them a rare four-All-Pro offense. George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Trent Williams remain in place, and although Purdy is still expected to be the triggerman, Darnold may end up seeing time — as either injury insurance or protection in case Purdy struggles to replicate his rookie-year effort — for the team this season.

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