49ers news: Sam Darnold’s role in 2023, John Lynch helps explain

Sam Darnold #14 of the Carolina Panthers (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Sam Darnold #14 of the Carolina Panthers (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The 49ers made a somewhat surprising addition in NFL free agency by grabbing Sam Darnold, who’ll now be in the quarterbacking mix with Trey Lance and Brock Purdy.

The San Francisco 49ers have been targeting quarterback Sam Darnold for quite some time now.

They scouted him out of USC when he entered the 2018 NFL Draft, only to not make it anywhere close to when the Niners were drafting, subsequently landing with the New York Jets at No. 3 overall that year.

After Darnold flamed out with Gang Green, San Francisco was reportedly interested in trading for him that go-around but didn’t end up doing so.

Now, following Darnold’s departure from the Carolina Panthers, the 49ers finally have him.

Behind quarterbacks Trey Lance and Brock Purdy, however, Darnold’s future as a QB3 on an otherwise stacked roster seems precarious. However, with Darnold on a one-year deal worth up to $4.5 million with $3.5 million of it guaranteed, it would seem as if his role is going to be much more than just a training camp body and someone to bolster the depth chart amid injuries suffered by both Lance and Purdy last season.

Purdy, who is coming off a UCL tear, might not even be cleared for the start of the regular season.

In that case, Darnold might end up being more important than initially thought.

And general manager John Lynch’s comments hint at that.

49ers GM John Lynch suggests Sam Darnold could be more than a backup

Speaking to reporters after the first wave of NFL free agency, via Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News, Lynch discussed just how long the Niners had been looking at Darnold by saying, “I feel we’ve studied him forever.”

Considering Darnold’s entry in the league was only one year after Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan took over San Francisco, it makes sense why it’d feel like “forever.”

At any rate, Lynch’s other comments were pretty notable:

"He kind of was craving what we could provide: a really cool structure on offense that’s tailor-made for his skill set. That’s what he bought into.We’re excited about Sam."

Read More: Sam Darnold contract suggests 49ers are concerned about Brock Purdy

Lynch never uttered a single word similar to the above when the 49ers grabbed another first-round flameout from the 2018 draft, quarterback Josh Rosen, toward the end of the 2020 season.

Rosen was effectively a warm body, nothing else.

Reading between the lines, it appears as if Lynch is viewing Darnold as a realistic competitor for the Niners and someone who’ll be more than just a gameday inactive behind Lance and Purdy.

Whether or not it means Darnold starts is anyone’s guess, and that’s yet to be determined anyway.

But it appears Darnold is pegged for a role well above just tossing footballs in training camp and preseason games.

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