Sam Darnold

NFC North Notes: Bears, Vikings, Reader

Coleman Shelton started every Rams game at center last season, and the former UDFA logged a few starts there during the 2022 season. The Bears gave Shelton only a one-year, $3MM deal, however. Already rostering guards Teven Jenkins and Nate Davis, the Bears may view Shelton as a backup. This is because Chicago acquired Ryan Bates from Buffalo. Given a Bears RFA offer sheet in 2022, Bates remains attached to that contract (four years, $17MM). He looks more likely to be the favorite for Bears center duties than Shelton,’s Courtney Cronin notes.

Bates, 27, does not have a notable history at center. At Penn State, he primarily played left tackle. The Bills used him primarily at guard, with Mitch Morse previously entrenched at center. Despite Buffalo matching the 2022 Chicago offer sheet, the team added two new guards — Connor McGovern, O’Cyrus Torrence — in 2023. Bates did not start a game for the Bills last season, but the ex-UDFA looks set to have a good shot at taking over at center for the Bears.

Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • The Bears’ four-year, $76MM Jaylon Johnson extension features an out in 2026. The deal calls for $10.6MM of Johnson’s $15.1MM 2026 base salary to be guaranteed for injury, but no skill guarantees are in place beyond 2025. KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson notes $7.6MM of Johnson’s 2026 base will shift to a full guarantee if the Pro Bowl cornerback is on the roster by that date. With no true guarantees on this deal post-2025, the Bears could get out with just $5MM in dead money (in the event of a post-June 1 cut) in 2026.
  • The Vikings have been active in using void years under GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. This practice cost the team when Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Tomlinson departed, but it is turning to cap space-saving measure heavily this year as well. Minnesota included four void years in Sam Darnold, Aaron Jones and Andrew Van Ginkel‘s deals, with three void years used to spread out the three-year, $22.5MM Blake Cashman contract’s cap hits. While this will create some dead money if these players are not re-signed before their contracts officially expire, the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling observes it created some cap space in the event the Vikes need to carry a bigger 2024 cap number for Justin Jefferson, who has been on the extension radar for two years. That said, Jefferson’s 2024 cap figure is already at $19.7MM on the fifth-year option.
  • Looking elsewhere on the Vikings’ payroll, their Jonathan Greenard deal (four years, $76MM) features $42MM in total guarantees. The contract includes $4MM guaranteed for 2026, per Goessling. Though, that money is classified as injury guarantees, providing the Vikes — like the Bears with Johnson — some flexibility down the road on a $19MM-AAV contract.
  • Rounding up some Minnesota contract matters, Goessling adds Shaquill Griffin‘s one-year contract is worth $4.55MM and features $3.99MM fully guaranteed. The Vikings are giving Jonathan Bullard a one-year, $2.25MM deal to stay, per Goessling, who adds Dan Feeney‘s contract to come over from the Bears is worth $1.8MM. Jonah Williams, the defensive lineman, signed a one-year, $1.5MM deal that includes $350K guaranteed, Goessling offers. Jihad Ward‘s one-year accord is worth $1.8MM and includes $1MM guaranteed, The Athletic’s Dan Duggan tweets.
  • Initially labeled as being worth up to $27.25MM, D.J. Reader‘s Lions pact contains $22MM in base value. The Lions are only guaranteeing the veteran nose tackle $7.4MM at signing, per OverTheCap. Coming off his second quad tear in four years, Reader would receive a $4MM roster bonus on Day 3 of the 2025 league year. That date will certainly be pivotal for his Detroit future.
  • Arrested on a fourth-degree DWI charge in December, Vikings OC Wes Phillips pleaded guilty to a lesser charge recently. The third-year Minnesota OC pleaded guilty to a careless driving charge, Fox 9’s Jeff Wald notes. Phillips, 45, agreed to pay a $378 fine and will serve eight hours of community service.

Broncos “Leaning Toward” Jarrett Stidham As QB1

Before the 2024 league year began, we heard that Jarrett Stidham had a good chance to open the season as the Broncos’ starting quarterback. Now, as the dust settles on the first wave of free agency, it appears that Stidham’s hold on the QB1 job has only gotten stronger.

In evaluating the QB signings and trades that have taken place around the league, Mike Klis of says that the Broncos “seem to be leaning toward” having Stidham serve as the starter — at least at the beginning of the 2024 campaign — and using their No. 12 overall selection on a collegiate passer. After all, while Denver considered Sam Darnold, who ultimately signed with the Vikings, Sean Payton & Co. reportedly did not make a contract offer (per Klis, Darnold strongly preferred Minnesota anyway).

Likewise, Klis reports that the Broncos did their due diligence on former Patriots signal-caller Mac Jones, but they did not make a trade offer. New England ultimately dealt Jones to the Jaguars for a sixth-round pick. Klis also says that Denver was never in on high-priced free agent options like Kirk Cousins and Baker Mayfield, and he adds that the club has not shown any interest in Ryan Tannehill. While there are still free agents (Tannehill) and trade candidates (Trey Lance, Zach Wilson) that the Broncos could pursue, none of them would necessarily unseat Stidham.

Notwithstanding Klis’ expectation that the Broncos’ will use their top draft choice on a quarterback, Troy Renck of the Denver Post believes the team could trade back, unless a player like Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy should fall into that range, or unless Payton is particularly high on Oregon’s Bo Nix. Renck’s sources tell him that four quarterbacks will be selected within the top six picks of the draft, and it certainly seems to be a safe bet that the first three selections will be used on passers. The Bears (No. 1 overall) and Commanders (No. 2 overall) appear poised to draft QBs, and even if the Patriots (No. 3 overall) trade back, the team that trades with them may well use that pick on a quarterback. The price to leap up the draft board to select the third- or fourth-best QB prospect in the draft would be prohibitive for a team like the Broncos that is clearly in rebuild mode (to say nothing of the fact that the Vikings, who have the No. 11 overall pick, are better-positioned to make such a move).

Obviously, if the Broncos were to trade down as Renck suggests, that would solidify Stidham as the short-term starter while helping the team pick up additional capital to address other holes on a roster that has plenty of them. One way or another, as Albert Breer of wrote on the day free agency began, Denver is not going to force anything at the QB position, and Payton’s confidence in Stidham affords them the ability to be patient, even if “patience” is not one of Payton’s favorite words.

Vikings To Sign QB Sam Darnold

11:37am: Although the Broncos monitored Darnold’s market, 9News’ Mike Klis indicates the team did not make an offer. Darnold’s asking price landing in the $10MM-per-year neighborhood looks to have moved the Broncos out of the mix. Despite the team having only Jarrett Stidham in place post-Russell Wilson, it passed on making this a true bidding war.

12:12am: Competing against multiple other suitors, the Vikings will bring in their preferred Kirk Cousins fallback option. Sam Darnold has joined DaQuan Jones in making a wee-hours call on his 2024 NFL team.

Darnold will rejoin his former teammate — new Vikings QBs coach Josh McCown — in Minnesota, with’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reporting the recent 49ers back will sign a one-year deal worth $10MM. The Vikings appear to have beaten out the Broncos and Commanders for the former No. 3 overall pick.

[RELATED: Falcons To Give Kirk Cousins $180MM Deal]

This will bring what looks to be a clear-cut starter opportunity for Darnold, who has not gone into a season as a starter since 2021 with the Panthers. With Cousins’ Atlanta departure set to bring $28.5MM in dead money due to the void years Minnesota tacked onto their previous starter’s deal, Darnold at a significantly reduced rate will help the Vikings pick up the pieces.

Darnold, 26, emerged on the Vikings’ radar minutes after Cousins chose to leave. The team had made its pitch to its six-year starter up until Sunday night, but the 35-year-old passer will camp in Georgia on a $45MM-per-year accord. Cousins certainly is a more stable option compared to Darnold, who could not stick as the Jets or Panthers’ starter. But the Vikings will not be devoting anything close to their QB spot compared to the past six seasons. The Cousins era taxed the Vikings, who were battling uphill in negotiations since giving the ex-Washington franchise tag recipient a fully guaranteed deal in 2018.

With the salary cap ballooning to $55.4MM, the Vikings will need to give Darnold more than the Buccaneers handed Baker Mayfield in the wake of Tom Brady‘s void years-generated bill hitting their books last year. Mayfield collected some incentives but signed for just $4MM in base value last year. Darnold has not reached the heights Mayfield did merely in Cleveland, and the USC alum has made 56 career starts. But an argument can also be made — even after six seasons — the former top prospect landed in two bad situations as a starter.

The Jets chose to ship Darnold out after three seasons, which came under Todd Bowles and Adam Gase and with clear issues on the offensive line and at the pass-catching positions. And the Panthers acquired Darnold — for three draft picks, including a second-rounder — during an unstable period in which Matt Rhule was ready to move on from the trade pickup by his second season. Mayfield then replaced Darnold as Carolina’s starter, and while the latter recaptured his job, the Panthers were on the verge of another regime change. Darnold has a career 63-56 TD-INT ratio and has averaged just 6.7 yards per pass as a pro. In his most recent season with enough usage to qualify (2021), Darnold ranked 29th in QBR.

The Vikings will give Darnold a Justin JeffersonT.J. HockensonJordan Addison trio to target, and while the former Trojans standout will probably never live up to his draft slot, Kevin O’Connell‘s offense looks like his best opportunity to show he can be a decent starter. Of course, the Vikings will certainly be connected to QBs in the draft; they hold the No. 11 overall pick. But Darnold would be in place as the bridge in that circumstance. He could also buy the NFC North team time if a trade-up maneuver proves elusive come April.

Broncos, Vikings Submit Offers To QB Sam Darnold; Commanders In Mix

9:20pm: The Commanders are also in talks with Darnold,’s Peter Schrager tweets. That would seem a less enticing fit, due to the team being expected to draft a passer at No. 2 overall. Though, that is not a lock. And the Commanders, Sam Howell’s status notwithstanding, are kicking the tires on adding Darnold to Kliff Kingsbury‘s offense.

8:13pm: Sam Darnold has an interesting decision to make. Two teams in need of at least a bridge starter — the Vikings and Broncos — are pursuing him. Both have made offers, per the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin.

After spending last season as the 49ers’ backup, the former No. 3 overall pick profiles as a lower-cost option for a team in need of a reset. Both Denver and Minnesota qualify, given Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins‘ respective exits. With Jacoby Brissett and Gardner Minshew committing elsewhere, options have thinned a bit in this market.

[RELATED: Broncos, Vikings On Radar For QB Trade-Up]

Darnold-to-Denver would probably make him the favorite over Jarrett Stidham to replace Wilson on a full-time basis. But the Broncos’ draft plan introduces a variable. Then again, the Vikings are now in the same boat post-Cousins. Both teams figure to be closely connected to QBs in this draft, and Darnold will be cognizant of that. But starting jobs, especially with the Raiders snagging Minshew, are running out. Darnold seems like he will be the bridge in Denver or Minnesota soon, however.

Immediately linked to Darnold in the aftermath of Cousins’ Falcons decision, the Vikings will need a lower-cost option in 2024. They are about to eat $28.5MM in dead money stemming from Cousins’ last contract. A disagreement on guarantees last year nixed another Cousins extension, leading to Minnesota using void years to make his 2023 cap hit work. Although the Vikings pursued their six-year starter and drove up the Falcons’ price, Cousins is still bolting for Georgia.

The team that misses out on Darnold here would have the likes of Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and Joe Flacco (though, probably not in Denver’s case) still available. The Raiders are also planning to cut Jimmy Garoppolo on Wednesday; the six-year 49ers starter would stand to be an option as well, but Darnold — who is still just 26 — looks to be the teams’ top priority as of Monday night.

Vikings Eyeing QB Sam Darnold

The Vikings are not only set to lose Kirk Cousins; they are starting at a $28.5MM dead money hit stemming from the void years it used to afford the experienced quarterback previously. Minnesota is set to regroup here.

As the Vikings aim to transition from Cousins, a cheaper alternative is on the radar. Minnesota is eyeing a Sam Darnold addition, The Athletic’s Dianna Russini tweets. The recent 49ers backup has other suitors — on a market filled with bridge-type QB options — but it is clear the Vikings are one of them. And they would now present an appealing offer: a chance at a starting role.

The 49ers re-signed Brandon Allen earlier today, completing a rumored move that is likely to send Darnold elsewhere. It is likely the former No. 3 overall pick will make more than the $4.5MM he did as a San Francisco backup.

Darnold joins Jacoby Brissett, Ryan Tannehill, Gardner Minshew and Joe Flacco as bridge-type options or high-end backups. In addition to Minnesota, Denver and Las Vegas make sense for such a passer. The Patriots may be in the market for a QB on this tier as well. Teams who need backups will be pursuing this group, potentially driving up prices. But it is unlikely Darnold will be incredibly expensive based on his history.

Although Darnold has been in the NFL for six seasons and has made 56 starts for the Jets and Panthers, he is still just 26. It is possible a team in need of a low-cost option will add him hoping for a Baker Mayfield-like resurgence. Darnold showed less than Mayfield’s pre-Tampa peak, however. The Vikings did not accomplish what they wanted with Cousins, advancing further with Case Keenum at the controls. Their next QB will have Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson and Jordan Addison to target, which would stand to appeal to many of the available arms.

Jets’ Zach Wilson Addresses Benching

The NFL’s first Black Friday matchup will see the Jets move forward with the 2023 version of their post-Zach Wilson offense. The former No. 2 pick has seen his status as starting quarterback removed for the second consecutive season, with Tim Boyle now set to handle first-team duties.

[RELATED: Aaron Rodgers Remains Intent On 2023 Return]

Wilson was benched in place of Mike White in 2022, as the Jets struggled offensively and the former failed to make the Year 2 jump many young passers experience. He acknowledged that New York’s offense has once again fallen short of expectations in 2023, prompting the team’s decision to drop him to No. 3 on the QB depth chart. Wilson’s remarks on the move indicate he feels he has developed over the course of this season, though.

“It’s a lot different,” the 24-year-old said, via ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “Obviously, I wasn’t doing anything well last year. It was well-deserved. I felt like it was deserved in the locker room. But where I’m at right now, it’s like we’re truly struggling as an offense. It’s hard to point the finger at anybody. I hope we can figure things out and I’ll take that if that’s the issue.”

Wilson added that he felt he has not been “scapegoated” for the issues New York’s offense has been dealing with. The unit ranks near the bottom of the NFL in many categories, and the Jets have scored only nine offensive touchdowns in 10 games this season. Wilson has completed less than 60% of his passes while throwing more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (six) and losing five fumbles. Those figures have played a large part in New York’s struggles, though other elements – such as an injury-riddled offensive line and play-calling from OC Nathaniel Hackett which has come under scrutiny – have contributed as well.

With Wilson having been demoted for a second straight year, however, it has become increasingly difficult to see him remaining with the Jets no later than the expiration of his rookie contract in 2024. His shortcomings have led to reflections on New York’s decision to draft him in 2021, a move which followed the end of Sam Darnold‘s time at the helm. The latter still had supporters in the organization when the commitment to drafting Wilson was made, SNY’s Connor Hughes notes. Darnold was traded to the Panthers in April 2021, and he signed with the 49ers as a free agent this offseason.

In the wake of benching Wilson, head coach Robert Saleh was unsurprisingly asked about his thoughts on the process of selecting the BYU alum. He responded (via Cimini) simply that he has “shared his thoughts” on the decision with general manager Joe Douglas without going into detail. Saleh has repeatedly given Wilson public votes of confidence, only opening the door to a quarterback swap this past week in the wake of Boyle taking over from Wilson midway through the Jets’ Week 11 loss.

Of course, the organization made its thoughts on Wilson clear by acquiring Aaron Rogers this offseason to supplement a roster believed to be in win-now mode at many positions other than quarterback. With Rodgers under contract for next year, it will be interesting to see how the Jets choose to proceed with Wilson over the coming months in light of his tenure as a New York starter likely having come to an end.

Aaron Rodgers Does Not Close Door On In-Season Return; Jets Have Not Called 49ers On Sam Darnold

Suffering a ruptured Achilles four plays into his Jets tenure, Aaron Rodgers underwent surgery this week. The four-time MVP was close to retiring before joining the Jets, but he offered a clue into his post-2023 plans shortly after the injury. Early signs point to Rodgers playing in 2024.

[RELATED: Jets Not Planning To Contact Tom Brady]

Rodgers still did not slam the door shut on a question Friday about returning this season, in the event the Jets make the playoffs. While the 39-year-old passer refused to put a timetable on his comeback effort, he included a Kevin Garnett/”anything is possible” reference — in response to a question about coming back in the postseason — during his latest Pat McAfee Show appearance (video link).

It doesn’t do any good to make prognostications, other than help my own mental state, but yeah, I’m gonna try and push this thing as much as it’ll allow me to,” Rodgers said. “There’s markers I’ve gotta see — where I’m at after a week and two weeks and a month and two months — and then we’ll see what the conversation is from there.”

Players have returned months after Achilles injuries in the not-so-distant past. Terrell Suggs and Michael Crabtree came back from their maladies — in 2012 and 2013, respectively — during the regular season. Of course, the Ravens linebacker and 49ers wide receiver both went down in May. Suggs returned Oct. 21; Crabtree was back Dec. 1. Cam Akers suffered an Achilles tear in July 2021; he returned in time for the Rams’ Week 18 game that season. Of course, Akers was not effective upon coming back that year.

Rodgers is considerably older than this trio at the time of injury, and it would be shocking if he became a realistic candidate to come back this season. It certainly says a lot about his change in mindset upon being traded that he would go from being “90% retired” to considering a radical comeback in the event the Jets made the playoffs — or advanced deep into the postseason.

Give me the doubts, give me the timetables, give me all the things that you think can, should or will happen, because all I need is that one little extra percent of inspiration,” Rodgers said. “That’s all I need. So, give me your doubts, give me your prognostications and then watch what I do.”

The Jets have not signed a quarterback to fill out their depth chart. Although Zach Wilson underwhelmed to the point the Jets benched him and then charted an aggressive course to add a veteran, the team has attempted to throw its support behind the former No. 2 overall pick as a starter. Ex-Rodgers Packers backup Tim Boyle is in place as Wilson’s backup ahead of Week 2. The Jets have been connected to Colt McCoy, Brett Rypien and the recently retired Chad Henne in the wake of Rodgers’ injury. McCoy remains a free agent, and no indications have emerged Henne would unretire if asked to do so. The Rams bumped Rypien to their 53-man roster to prevent a potential Jets poaching, but CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson indicates Gang Green’s Rypien interest was not believed to be serious.

On another front, John Lynch said Friday (via the San Jose Mercury News’ Can Inman) the 49ers did not receive a call from the Jets on Sam Darnold. With the 49ers trading Trey Lance to the Cowboys last month, trading Darnold back to the Jets would seemingly be a nonstarter for a team that has dealt with a number of QB injuries in recent years. The Jets made the decision to trade their three-year starter in 2021 and draft Wilson in 2021, collecting second-, fourth- and sixth-round picks from the Panthers.

49ers To Name Sam Darnold Backup QB; Team Exploring Trey Lance Options

Sam Darnold has beaten out Trey Lance for the 49ers’ backup quarterback job, Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of report (on Twitter). As a result, the former San Francisco starter’s status going into his third season is uncertain.

Playing ahead of Lance in the 49ers’ second preseason game, Darnold had been expected to begin the season as Brock Purdy‘s backup. Wednesday’s announcement, however, brings clarity on one end and adds doubt on another. After going into last season as the 49ers’ unquestioned starter, Lance has seen his stock crater. Lance is not at 49ers practice Wednesday, the San Jose Mercury News’ Cam Inman tweets.

Rumblings about a Lance trade emerged before the draft, though the 49ers denied they were shopping him. Lynch spoke to Lance about the rumors, and the athletic passer indicated he was not seeking a trade. That all may change now. The Vikings were on the radar for Lance before the draft, and Rapoport suggested this as a landing spot for the Marshall, Minn., native. But the Vikes, who roster ex-49er Nick Mullens behind Kirk Cousins, drafted Jaren Hall in Round 5.

The 49ers have continued to shop Lance for much of the offseason, The Athletic’s Dianna Russini tweets, noting no significant offer has come the team’s way. In April, however, Russini notes the Vikings and 49ers were pretty far down the road on a trade (Twitter link). Considering the lack of evidence regarding Lance’s NFL capabilities, it is difficult to foresee the 49ers receiving an especially worthwhile proposal. That will put the organization to a decision with 2021 third’s overall choice.

Prior to free agency’s outset, John Lynch spoke of the 49ers adding another QB due to Lance coming off two ankle surgeries and Purdy rehabbing a torn UCL. Rather than that quarterback becoming a third-string option that drifted off the radar once Purdy returned, the 49ers signed Darnold. Kyle Shanahan has spoken highly of the 2018 third overall pick, who signed a one-year deal worth $4.5MM early in free agency. And the 49ers will go into the season with the recent Panthers starter as Purdy’s top reserve.

The appeal of playing in a 49ers offense housing three All-Pro skill-position talents (George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey) helped bring Darnold back to California. The USC alum is still just 26, and while he has been given considerable run as a starter (55 games), the 49ers represent a better situation compared to the Jets and Panthers offenses he piloted. Shanahan has made it clear Purdy is the starter, and he debuted for the team against the Broncos on Saturday. It is certainly interesting that Darnold — the No. 3 overall pick in 2018 — will back up last year’s Mr. Irrelevant, but even if Purdy’s leash should be lengthy, the 49ers have more stability at QB2 in the sixth-year veteran.

For Lance, this marks another setback in a career full of them. Shanahan had thrown cold water on Lance’s prospects in the spring. Rather than this being a three-way competition for the starter gig, the 49ers did not give Lance much of a shot to regain his job as Purdy rehabbed. The North Dakota State alum quarterbacked much of the second half Saturday, and although he fared decently (12-for-18, 173 yards), it is possible that becomes audition tape for another team now.

Lance’s past three-plus years have doubled as one of the strangest career arcs for any top prospect in NFL history. After Lance dominated as a dual-threat talent for a Division I-FCS dynasty in 2019, as a redshirt freshman, the COVID-19 pandemic nixed FCS football in 2020. Lance was limited to one game as a sophomore, and he declared for the draft. That monster 2019 showing still made him a top prospect, like fellow ex-Bison Carson Wentz was five years prior, but Lance went to a 49ers team that may not have been all in on him. Rumors swirled about Shanahan preferring Mac Jones.

Lance, 23, has not come close to justifying the 49ers’ nine-spot trade-up, which cost them two first-round picks. He has attempted 102 passes as a pro, starting only four games and finishing just three. The Week 2 start against the Seahawks last season, leading to Lance’s ankle fracture, may be his last cameo as a 49er. After years of injury issues at QB, the 49ers are in better shape now. Purdy is no longer under any restrictions, and Darnold is healthy. That said, Darnold has missed games due to injury in each of his five seasons. This included a high ankle sprain last year, though he has certainly been healthier than Jimmy Garoppolo as a pro.

It should be expected the 49ers will attempt to move their third-stringer; May pickup Brandon Allen remains on San Francisco’s roster as well. Considering what the 49ers gave up to acquire Lance, moving him will cement a major draft blunder for an otherwise successful operation.

49ers Notes: Rivers, Williams, Darnold

Had the 49ers beaten the Eagles in the NFC championship game, there’s a good chance Philip Rivers would have been under center for the team during the Super Bowl. Kyle Shanahan confirmed as much today, saying the organization planned to sign the retired quarterback had they won that game (via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle).

Despite having not seen the field since the 2020 campaign, the 41-year-old quarterback was in the team’s contingency plan towards the end of the postseason. With Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance out of the picture, the 49ers rolled into the NFC championship game with Josh Johnson as the top backup to Brock Purdy. Both Purdy and Johnson were injured in that contest, and that would have forced the team into figuring out a fifth option at the position.

“(Rivers) was prepared to (play),” said Shanahan. “It’s stuff we talked about through the whole year. We would have seen how that was for the Super Bowl. That was the plan for most of the year.”

As Branch notes, Ben Roethlisberger admitted that the 49ers had reached out to him about joining the team, but the quarterback wanted to stay retired. Rivers, however, sounds like he was willing to return to the field for a chance at a Super Bowl ring.

When we last saw the long-time Chargers QB, he was manning the position for the Colts, guiding the team to an 11-5 record while tossing 24 touchdowns vs. 11 interceptions. Since calling it a career following that 2020 campaign, Rivers has served as a high school football coach in Fairhope, Alabama.

More notes out of San Francisco…

  • 49ers wideout and return man Ray-Ray McCloud broke his wrist at practice earlier this week, per Matt Barrows of The Athletic (on Twitter). The 26-year-old will undergo surgery and will likely miss the first two months of the season. McCloud joined the 49ers last year, and he finished the season averaging 23 yards per kick return and 10.8 yards per punt return. He also added 14 receptions and a touchdown on offense. As Barrows notes, Ronnie Bell, Willie Snead, and D’Shawn Jamison will be competing to take over the ST snaps with McCloud sidelined.
  • Trent Williams is entering his 13th NFL season, including his fourth with the 49ers. While 2023 will mark the lineman’s age-35 campaign, Williams doesn’t have any thoughts of hanging up his cleats. “No I don’t. Because I still feel the same,” Williams told ESPN’s Dan Graziano. “Every year, I come back and I’m literally on the edge of my seat until that first practice, because I just don’t know. I can train as hard as I want and feel good, but I don’t know. I’ve seen a lot of guys fall off, hit that wall, and I just don’t know when it’s coming. So I kind of go in scared in a sense, and as soon as I get out and move around I feel like, ‘All right. This year I’m good. I haven’t started slowing down yet.’ At the end of the day, I’m 35. I understand I don’t have another 10 years. But what’s the point of thinking about when it’s going to stop? It doesn’t help. I think once it’s time, it’s time, and you will know. But for me, just because I’m 35, I don’t think I should be thinking about retiring.”
  • Shanahan told reporters that the 49ers had interest in Sam Darnold during the early stages of their 2018 draft evaluation (via ESPN’s Nick Wagoner and Jeremy Fowler). The organization ended up trading for Garoppolo during the 2017 campaign, and Darnold went third-overall to the Jets in the following year’s draft. The 49ers were eager to bring the now-veteran QB on board this offseason, and the organization is convinced that Darnold was previously “harmed more by his circumstances than his ability.” Darnold was also eager to join an organization that could maximize his skills. “Being in a really good organization was a priority for me,” Darnold told reporters. “Being with really good coaches and really good personnel as well. Those were kind of the top things.”
  • The 49ers announced a number of front office changes, including the promotion of Jeff Diamond to Senior Manager, Salary Cap and Hayden Frey and Crowley Hanlon to area scouts. The organization also officially announced the addition of Frank Gore to the front office, with the former running back earning the title of Football Personnel Advisor.

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.