Rumors about Sam Darnold’s availability in the trade market will only grow louder as the new league year and the NFL draft get closer. The 49ers have been tied to a potential Darnold trade in various hypothetical trades, but nothing substantial has been reported regarding San Francisco’s interest in the quarterback.
If they were thinking about making such a move, it wouldn’t come cheap.
NBC Sports’ Peter King wrote in his Football Morning in America column that there’s league-wide interest in Darnold, who would cost at least a high second-round pick.
No team in the next 14 months has a better draft situation than the Jets. Currently, they own a decent piece of quarterback real estate in Sam Darnold. He’s worth, at least, a high second-round pick in this draft—39th overall to Carolina, maybe, or 40th to Denver, or 43rd to San Francisco. (The 49ers are my personal favorite.)
The 49ers make sense as a landing spot for Darnold since much of the former No. 3 overall pick’s struggles in three years with the Jets can potentially be attributed to organizational failures around him. San Francisco has an infrastructure in place, along with head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offensive scheme, that would potentially elevate Darnold to a higher level of play than he’s reached so far in his career.
On the other hand, moving a second-round pick for him means the team would likely be aiming to have him start this season since he’s on the final year of his rookie deal. Using a second-round pick on a backup who could leave the following year in free agency isn’t probably a prudent use of a premium pick for a team with as many holes as the 49ers.
We theorized the club could move a mid-round pick for Darnold to get him in the building as the backup and to see what he can do in practice before offering an extension in the offseason. It’d be worth a mid-round selection to find out what Darnold looks like in Shanahan’s offense. A second-round pick comes at a much higher risk.
Ultimately the 49ers need to identify a player who can be their long-term answer if Garoppolo doesn’t elevate his play or stay healthy in 2021. If Darnold is that player, then it makes sense to get him – even for a second-round pick. If there’s any question about him though, the pick would be better used on a rookie without a track record of underperforming in 38 NFL starts.