49ers bid farewell in free agency to Brock Purdy's primary backup

It's a new era in Minnesota, but is it going to be a better one?

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold (L) and Brock Purdy (R)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold (L) and Brock Purdy (R) / Harry How/GettyImages

Sam Darnold hopes he can translate his one year with the 49ers into something productive after signing with the Vikings in free agency.

The San Francisco 49ers will now have a modest backup quarterback battle to watch between now and Week 1 of the regular season.

There's no questioning the starter, Brock Purdy, as he's cemented atop the depth chart. And there's a high chance one of his two backups will be veteran signal-caller Brandon Allen, who spent 2023 as the team's third-stringer and recently signed a one-year deal to stay in the Bay Area at the outset of NFL free agency.

But, last year's No. 2 quarterback for the Niners, Sam Darnold, will no longer be part of head coach Kyle Shanahan's depth chart.

Sam Darnold leaves 49ers via free agency, replaces Kirk Cousins as Vikings quarterback

It is the end of an era, yes.

Not in San Francisco. Rather, with the Minnesota Vikings, who bade farewell to longtime quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is now off to the Atlanta Falcons on a four-year deal.

Cousins, a Shanahan favorite, can hopefully help solve some of Atlanta's own quarterbacking woes, but his departure left a void the Vikings are now left to fill.

Their answer? Darnold.

Well, at least for the time being. Not long after news of Cousins' departure broke, The Athletic's Dianna Russini reported that Minnesota was honing in on Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick from the 2018 NFL Draft, as Cousins' replacement.

Late on Monday, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported that Darnold indeed was joining the Vikings on a one-year deal:

From San Francisco's perspective, it opens the door for Shanahan to either go after another veteran quarterback to support Purdy and Allen, or it'll allow the team to use one of its projected 11 picks in this year's draft to grab a developmental signal-caller to compete with Allen for the primary spot to back up Purdy.

For Darnold, he hopes that his one year with the 49ers can translate into finally resurrecting what has otherwise been a frustrating year.

Owning a 59.7 completion percentage and 78.3 passer rating over his career, the 26-year-old Darnold started one "meaningless" game for the Niners in Week 18 last season and completed 28 of his 46 total pass attempts for 297 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, most of which came in mop-up duty behind Purdy.

For Minnesota, Darnold is little more than a bridge and shouldn't prevent the Norsemen from finding a long-term answer under center whatsoever.

Unless Darnold finally finds the kind of magic that made him a third-overall draft pick way back in 2018.

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