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49ers Trade Rumors: SF Discussed Sam Darnold Deal Before Moving to No. 3

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2021

FILE - New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold rolls out to pass against the New England Patriots in the first half of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., in this Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, file photo. The 23-year-old quarterback was considered an untouchable player on the roster only a year ago. General manager Joe Douglas has backed off that stance, though, and it could signal a major change at the position as free agency and the NFL draft approach. “I will answer the call if it's made,” Douglas said Wednesday, March 3, 2021, when asked if he'd listen to offers for Darnold from other teams. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
Charles Krupa/Associated Press

The San Francisco 49ers appear ready to find their next quarterback through the draft, but the team also considered a deal for New York Jets passer Sam Darnold

Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated reported the 49ers "did have some internal discussion on Sam Darnold" before eventually trading up from No. 12 to No. 3 in a deal with the Miami Dolphins.

San Francisco also determined the Jets don't plan to move the No. 2 pick of the 2021 NFL draft.

It means if Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson go off the board with the top two picks as expected, the 49ers could have their choice of Justin Fields, Mac Jones and Trey Lance as their next franchise quarterback. 

It gives the 49ers the opening to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo, who is under contract for two more seasons but has few guarantees going forward. The team can trade or release the 29-year-old after June 1 and save $25 million against the 2021 cap, per Spotrac.

The organization would have a similar opportunity before the 2022 season, saving $25.6 million.

While Garoppolo was a valuable player in 2019 on the team's run to the Super Bowl, injuries have limited his impact—he has had only one season of more than six starts since entering the league in 2014.

Darnold could have been an option to start fresh based on the talent he has displayed at times during his career both in the NFL and as a prospect.

The 2018 No. 3 overall pick played well in 2019 with limited help around him, totaling 3,024 passing yards and 19 touchdowns in 13 games. He has still struggled overall, though, and was one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL last year, finishing 2020 last among qualified players with a 72.7 quarterback rating.

Even if he bounces back in 2021, the 23-year-old will also see his salary rise after this season with an $18.9 million team option or potentially even more with a new contract.

San Francisco has seemingly opted to find a new quarterback in the draft instead of making a deal for Darnold.