We’re no longer at the rumor stage when it comes to a potential Sam Darnold trade. Albert Breer of MMQB noted recently that as many as eight teams are interested in the New York Jets starting quarterback. That includes the San Francisco 49ers.
From a Jets perspective, this makes sense. They boast the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and will likely be able to land ascending talent Zach Wilson from BYU.
There’s even been some suggestions that scouts around the league view Wilson in higher regard than consensus No. 1 prospect Trevor Lawrence. While that might be overblown, Wilson is now seen as a generational quarterback talent. New Jets head coach Robert Saleh, formerly of the 49ers, might not want to pass up on that.
As it relates to San Francisco, Breer noted in the same report that it is one of the three teams to keep an eye on as it relates to a Sam Darnold trade.
“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.”
The venerable Peter King of NBC Sports also noted that the 49ers are his favorite to land Darnold in a trade. This seems to be a clear indication that there’s some smoke here.
From a 49ers perspective, it’s an open question whether Darnold would be an upgrade over incumbent starter Jimmy Garoppolo. They are said to be interested in Deshaun Watson. But that’s an entirely different ball game.
What we do know is that Darnold would come much cheaper than Garoppolo for the cash-strapped 49ers. Garoppolo, coming off an injury-plagued 2020 season, is set to count $26.4 million against the 2021 NFL salary cap. San Francisco can save $23.6 million by moving off him. Meanwhile, a Sam Darnold trade would count a mere $5 million against said cap.
So, how might a trade of this ilk look? We give you three scenarios below.
Sam Darnold trade, three-team scenario
- 49ers get: Sam Darnold, Stephon Gilmore
- Patriots get: Jimmy Garoppolo
- Jets get: Third-round pick from 49ers in 2021, fourth-round pick from Patriots in 2021, future conditional pick from 49ers
There’s a whole heck of a lot to unpack here. First off, it’s rather clear that the New England Patriots view Garoppolo as their “Plan A” to replace Cam Newton under center this offseason. There’s also a scenario that suggests the Patriots and 49ers can work out a trade without the Jets’ help.
The question here becomes who San Francisco might get to replace Garoppolo? Why not expand it to a three-team trade? In this scenario, the 49ers add a veteran corner in Stephon Gilmore who is firmly on the trade block. It makes sense with the likes of Pro Bowlers Richard Sherman and Jason Verrett slated to become free agents. The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year would also cost a mere $7.34 million against the 2021 NFL salary cap for any team acquiring him in a trade
As for the Patriots, they’d have to rid themselves of Gilmore’s contract in order to take on Garoppolo’s cap hit. Moving a mere fourth-round pick and an aging corner for a stopgap starter who is just a year removed from leading his team to the Super Bowl makes a ton of sense.
New York’s involvement in this specific Sam Darnold trade includes the team picking up two mid-round picks in 2021 and a 2022 NFL Draft pick that could be as high as Round 2 depending on the quarterback’s success in San Francisco. It almost makes too much sense for the rebuilding team.
Read More: 5 ideal Sam Darnold trade scenarios
Sam Darnold traded to San Francisco 49ers for draft picks
- 49ers get: Sam Darnold
- Jets get: Fourth-round pick in 2021, conditional second-round pick in 2022
A specific Darnold trade to San Francisco could simply have just two teams involved. In this scenario, San Francisco moves one of its 10 draft picks this coming April while taking a chance on the former No. 3 pick from USC. The good news here is that it wouldn’t be a pick in any of the first three rounds. Given the 49ers’ cap situation and the fact that they have north of 40 impending NFL free agents, that’s no small thing.
So, why would New York do this? It’s rather simple. The team has three of the first 34 picks in the coming 2021 NFL Draft. The idea here would be to take a chance that Darnold excels in Kyle Shanahan’s system with the 49ers, turning that 2022 pick into a second rounder. It’s pretty much the most New York can anticipate in a Sam Darnold trade.
Sam Darnold trade to the 49ers for player, draft pick
- 49ers get: Sam Darnold
- Jets get: Third-round pick in 2021, defensive back Tarvarius Moore
New Jets head coach Robert Saleh dominated as the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator from 2017-20. That’s the primary reason he landed this job. We fully expect Saleh to target multiple 49ers defenders in free agency. But what about adding a young defensive back to the mix? Moore has shown flashes in San Francisco since being a third-round pick in 2018. He could be the long-term answer at free safety in New Jersey.
As for the 49ers, losing Moore might be a bitter pill to swallow. He’s been able to play both safety positions and at cornerback in three seasons with the team. However, San Francisco does have Jimmie Ward on the roster and will be adding defensive backs in the 2021 NFL Draft. Trading the compensatory third-round selection they acquired when Saleh went to New York would not handcuff the 49ers in that regard.