Why did Sam Darnold sign with the 49ers in NFL free agency?

Sam Darnold #14 of the Carolina Panthers (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)
Sam Darnold #14 of the Carolina Panthers (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images) /

It’s a little surprising that Sam Darnold, a former top-five NFL Draft pick, would choose the 49ers as a place to be a third-string quarterback.

Typically, most players on NFL rosters want to be with the first-team unit, the starters. Not backups.

For the San Francisco 49ers’ newest quarterback, Sam Darnold, he seems stoked to be in a situation where he’s a No. 3 option on a projected depth chart.

The Niners brought aboard Darnold, the third overall pick from the 2018 NFL Draft who has now flamed out with both the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers, in the opening wave of NFL free agency. And while San Francisco lost veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the Las Vegas Raiders, it still has two up-and-coming quarterbacking talents in Brock Purdy and Trey Lance.

Where will there be room for Darnold?

Granted, both Purdy and Lance are coming off serious injuries suffered last year, and Purdy might not be even ready to throw when the regular season commences in September.

That does open up the door for Darnold to serve as a backup to a soon-to-be-healthy Lance, yes, but is that the best that Darnold could have done?

Possibly. Yet the 49ers signed him to a significant $4.5 million deal with $3.5 million fully guaranteed. While not overly expensive, that’s not third-string money.

But, why would Darnold accept it outside of the “no one else would take me” argument?

Sam Darnold explains why he chose 49ers in NFL free agency

If Darnold had to wait weeks, perhaps even months into the NFL new year, it’d make sense for him to be OK with a third-string role.

But the Niners inked him in that opening wave.

Speaking to reporters in his first San Francisco presser (h/t Sports Illustrated), Darnold explained why the 49ers were a preferred destination and an easy choice:

"There are some unknowns with Brock’s injury and Trey coming back. With a good quarterback room, as long as we stick together, everything is going to work out. As long as we’re winning games, that’s the only thing that matters. As a competitor, you want to play, but you have to do what’s right for the team. And you leave those decisions up to Kyle, and we know that he’s going to put the best guy out there and do the right thing."

One might have to ask Darnold to be certain, but it sounds as if he recognizes the situation ahead of him.

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

Injuries to both Lance and Purdy open up the door slightly, but he is looking at a slate of being QB3 on the roster, at least in terms of projections.

That said, a Shanahan-like offense is something Darnold could resurrect his career in, and that likely points to being what was the attractive point in heading out west after lackluster years with Gang Green and then the Panthers.

Will it work out positively for Darnold, or will he follow the path taken by another 2018 first-round quarterbacking draft bust who didn’t cut it with the Niners either, Josh Rosen?

That’ll be an interesting storyline for another time.

Next. Ranking 49ers' 10 best quarterbacks in franchise history. dark