Former 49ers QB holds the lead in high-profile Vikings starter battle

Let's check in on what Sam Darnold is up to these days, shall we?
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Darnold (14)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Darnold (14) / Adam Bettcher/GettyImages

Sam Darnold, who backed up Brock Purdy with the 49ers last season, is fending off the Vikings' J.J. McCarthy for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.

When quarterback Sam Darnold opted to sign with the San Francisco 49ers as a free agent in 2023 after flaming out with both the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers after being the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, he knew it might be the last best chance to resurrect what was otherwise a floundering career.

Darnold, of course, never saw any meaningful snaps over the course of last season. The Niners already tabbed Brock Purdy as the future of their franchise under center, which left Darnold in a spot where he'd get mop-up duties and a relatively meaningless Week 18 game after San Francisco had clinched the No. 1 seed in the conference.

While Darnold's stat lines for the 49ers weren't exactly wowing, betting on himself for that one year in the Bay Area certainly paid off, and he subsequently signed a one-year, $10 million free-agent deal with the Minnesota Vikings during the offseason, $8.75 million of which is fully guaranteed.

For Minnesota, which finally bade farewell to longtime starter Kirk Cousins prior to signing Darnold, it's a stopgap measure.

Not even Darnold's "promising" tenure with the Niners would deny that.

In seeking a long-term answer, the Vikings used the No. 10 overall pick in this year's draft on former Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy, who'll have every chance to usurp Darnold on the depth chart.

According to the latest Darnold-related scuttlebutt, though, it might not happen right away.

Sam Darnold reportedly No. 1 on Vikings QB depth chart ahead of training camp

As broken down by ESPN's Kevin Seifert, Darnold is going to enter training camp as the No. 1 quarterback on Minnesota's depth chart ahead of McCarthy and the two other signal-callers the Vikings currently have on their 90-man offseason roster, one of them being another former San Francisco quarterback, Nick Mullens.

Even Minnesota's head coach, Kevin O'Connell hinted that Darnold was in the lead for now:

"We haven't had to put out a depth chart or anything like that. But yeah, I would say Sam would be the guy I would look to based upon the spring he's had, and really where he's at in his career and his quarterback journey, and what he's been able to do coming in and [hitting] the ground running and taking advantage of a competitive situation."

Darnold's apparent lead on the depth chart doesn't mean much, especially in the bigger picture. If anything, the Vikings are taking their time with McCarthy and letting him acclimate to life at the NFL level rather than forcing him into the fray, which is something Darnold had to do way back in 2018 to disastrous results.

Interestingly enough, Darnold and the Vikings square off against Purdy and the 49ers in Week 2, and it seems as if there's a good chance the former Niners backup will be starting against his old team so early in the season.

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