The San Francisco 49ers have been linked to virtually every available quarterback this offseason. Sam Darnold wasn’t an exception. There were enough national NFL reporters putting the 49ers’ name in the mix when Darnold came up that it looked like the club might make that their big quarterback move this offseason. While the notion of such a deal perished when San Francisco traded up to No. 3 in this year’s draft, Carolina’s trade for Darnold offered a look at what the 49ers avoided.
It felt like any deal the 49ers were going to make for Darnold would need to be one that cost a late draft pick and nothing more. Reports of the Jets asking for a second-round pick in exchange for the signal caller were especially worrisome since that move would all but ensure Darnold would be getting another contract with the 49ers.
It wound up costing a second-round pick and more to pry the former third overall pick away from the Jets.
Carolina had no competitors for Darnold according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapaport, and they still shelled out a 2021 sixth-round selection, a 2022 second-round pick and a 2022 fourth-round pick. That’s entirely too steep for the 49ers, even with the knowledge they moved three first-round picks and a third-round selection to jump up nine spots in this year’s draft. The price for Darnold likely would’ve inflated if there’d been competition on the trade market.
Adding Darnold to bring along in the wake of the Garoppolo era would’ve felt like a lateral move that didn’t substantially upgrade the QB spot for the 49ers. Skipping that trade to begin with seemed like the right call, but the Panthers’ three-pick deal to acquire him confirmed it.