49ers fans just watched the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win a Super Bowl with a quarterback their team could’ve had last offseason. Apparently, the 49ers are trying to not make the same mistake twice.
According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, the 49ers are still interested in acquiring both Deshaun Watson of the Texans and Sam Darnold of the Jets via trade this offseason. Landing either would lead to a trade of Jimmy Garoppolo, possibly to New England, according to La Canfora’s sources.
“Deshaun Watson still badly wants out of Houston,” La Canfora said during the CBS Super Bowl pregame show. “The Texans are telling teams ‘We’re not trading him.’ That could change by the draft. I can tell you the 49ers and Panthers are among teams very interested in Deshaun Watson. As are the Jets. They’ve got potentially the most draft capital to trade.
“If that goes down they would trade Sam Darnold who they took in the first round just a few years ago. Sources tell me 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is very high on Sam Darnold. If that’s a match, follow me here, the 49ers would trade Jimmy Garoppolo, and sources tell me Bill Belichick would love to have a Jimmy G reunion in New England. It is going to be a wild offseason.”
Watson is certainly a more exciting possibility than Darnold, but also a much less likely one. Not only are the Texans going to do everything they can to keep the 25-year-old who is under contract through 2025, if they do trade him, it’ll cost a king’s ransom that could reportedly include at least three first-round draft picks. Barring a Watson holdout where he refuses to take the field, it’s hard to see them actually cutting bait with one of the best young quarterbacks in the league.
Darnold is a much likelier and cheaper option considering the Jets are drafting No. 2 overall and will probably take a quarterback. The most interesting aspect of the Darnold report is that he wouldn’t be brought in to compete with Garoppolo for the starting job, but rather to replace him. That’s likely due to cap restrictions as Darnold makes $9.7 million next season, and the 49ers would probably need to restructure Garoppolo’s deal to fit both on the payroll.
If that’s truly Shanahan’s plan, it’s a bit of a confusing one, considering Garoppolo has been better than the mediocre Darnold in nearly every statistical category over their respective careers. Darnold was graded 35th of the 38 qualifying quarterbacks by Pro Football Focus this season, one spot ahead of Nick Mullens.
Darnold, 23, was selected with the third overall pick in 2018 and there’s definitely some talent there, but the idea of Shanahan and John Lynch going all in on a Darnold-Garoppolo swap, a year after refusing to do the same with Brady, is a bit mind-boggling.