It’s Monday, which means a few national writers will have some quarterback nuggets in their latest columns. That’s been the case the past couple of weeks, and it was no different on this Monday morning.
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer wrote in his MMQB column Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington are three teams to watch for in the Sam Darnold sweepstakes:
As for teams to watch, three in particular are interesting to me: Chicago, San Francisco and Washington. Two of the three, Chicago and Washington, were playoff teams in 2020, aren’t in striking distance to draft one of the top guys and may not think developing a rookie, given where they’re at, is the best play. San Francisco would be even more fascinating. Darnold’s a strong fit for Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and trading for him would make the Niners six years younger, and $20 million cheaper at the position in 2021. The Niners like Jimmy Garoppolo, as we’ve said here, and won’t move off him without a clear upgrade. Could Darnold be that?
4. THE JETS. No team in the next 14 months has a better draft situation than the Jets. Currently, they own a decent piece of quarterback real estate in Sam Darnold. He’s worth, at least, a high second-round pick in this draft—39th overall to Carolina, maybe, or 40th to Denver, or 43rd to San Francisco. (The 49ers are my personal favorite.)
Getting cheaper would be ideal for the Niners, but in that same post from Breer, he had one team’s salary cap expert crunching each team's numbers. San Franciso had the ninth-highest cap space in the NFL at $28 million as of Saturday, which was five million more than what Over the Cap reported on Friday morning for the Niners.
If the goal is to keep Trent Williams and Jason Verrett and possibly sign a few players outside of the building, then every million counts.
I’d be less concerned about Darnold being an upgrade on the field than I would be about Darnold staying on the field for 16 games. We have three straight seasons of data to suggest that the Jets' first-round pick from 2018 won’t play a full season. Kyle Shanahan can scheme open receivers for anyone to hit and make the quarterback look better than they are. He’s done it his entire career. What Kyle cannot do is control the health of a player.
So, another week, another QB tied to the 49ers. This time, we’re back to Darnold — a talented 23-year-old who has plenty of athleticism and arm strength but needs to reel in some of his “hero ball mentality” that could even pass for being boneheaded plays at times. If San Francisco moves on from Jimmy Garoppolo, I will hope it’s for a QB in the draft and not a reclamation project — though the cost of Darnold could be enticing for the organization.