49ers sign this former top-3 draft-pick bust as a free agent

Sam Darnold #14 of the Carolina Panthers (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)
Sam Darnold #14 of the Carolina Panthers (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images) /

The 49ers added to their quarterback room on the opening day of NFL free agency by signing Sam Darnold, a former No. 3 overall NFL Draft pick.

No, this isn’t the first time the thought of quarterback Sam Darnold in a San Francisco 49ers uniform has graced Niner Noise.

Darnold has been mentioned as a possibility for head coach Kyle Shanahan before, and even during the 2023 offseason, luring aboard the No. 3 overall selection from the 2018 NFL Draft made some sense.

Not to suddenly start for Shanahan, though.

On the opening day of NFL free agency, the Niners already lost their longtime veteran signal-caller, Jimmy Garoppolo, on a deal with the Las Vegas Raiders. It was expected that Garoppolo would leave even though San Francisco’s other two quarterbacks on the roster, Trey Lance and Brock Purdy, are both recovering from serious injuries.

While Lance is close to returning from a serious ankle injury suffered early in the 2022 season, there’s nobody on the roster right behind him to partake in offseason workouts.

Until now.

49ers sign Sam Darnold to a 1-year deal, presumably to support Trey Lance this offseason

The battle between Lance and Purdy should be a provocative one, even though the latter won’t be able to throw until training camp at the very soonest after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.

As such, the 49ers needed another name to split the load, and that’s where Darnold came into play.

First reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Niners are signing Darnold to a one-year deal:

The terms of the deal aren’t quite known, but it wouldn’t seem likely that Darnold will command a good deal of change.

Especially if San Francisco sees him as little more than insurance for Lance this offseason and a dark-horse competitor against Purdy once the regular season begins.

Read More: 49ers NFL free agency tracker: Who’s coming, going in 2023?

Darnold, whom the New York Jets selected third overall out of USC back in 2018, spent three underwhelming and disappointing years with Gang Green before being moved to the Carolina Panthers in 2021, and he all but disappeared there, too, and has a 21-34 overall record between the two teams with 61 touchdowns thrown against 55 interceptions.

Considering this might be the last gasp of his career, though, Darnold should be highly motivated to hang around with the 49ers, especially if Purdy takes longer to return than initially anticipated.

Perhaps that’ll be enough for Darnold to resurrect his otherwise uninspiring career.

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