Opportunistic 49ers Trade Proposal Sends QB to Packers

John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan

Getty San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch (left) and head coach Kyle Shanahan.

The San Francisco 49ers have three quarterbacks who could legitimately start in 2023, but the best move could be dealing one in a trade with the Green Bay Packers. Sam Darnold, Trey Lance and Brock Purdy all have the ability, but it’s unclear what direction the 49ers will take.

Purdy appears the front-runner for the starting job, but he is recovering from injury and may not be back in time for Week 1. However, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero said June 27 that “everything is trending right now where it’s for Brock Purdy being ready for the regular season.”

That would leave Lance and Darnold on the outside looking in.

Bleacher Report’s Joe Tansey called Darnold the most likely trade candidate on the 49ers roster due to this exact situation. That’s where the Packers come in and a spot in which San Francisco can make an opportunistic trade happen.

“Darnold could start Week 1 for the 49ers if Purdy does not recover from his elbow injury in time, and that may benefit all parties in the long run,” Tansey wrote in a story published July 5. “An injury, or a disappointing young quarterback, would be the reasons why a team rings the 49ers about Darnold. He seems like the more likely trade candidate than Lance right now because of his experience, but if Lance fails to win the backup job, his status could change.”

The Packers are rolling into the season with an untested Jordan Love and Sean Clifford at quarterback. Darnold has a losing record (21-34 in his 55 starts) and unimpressive touchdown-to-interception ratio (61 to 55), but he has five years of experience and potential upside.

Sam Darnold Joins 49ers in 2023

The 49ers are well-acquainted with quarterback injury issues because the Jimmy Garoppolo era was hampered by them. Then, in 2022, Lance and Purdy suffered major injuries, leading to San Francisco signing Darnold this offseason.

At this stage in his career, it’s hard to say that Darnold doesn’t need a lifeline from a competitive organization like the 49ers or Packers. He is coming off an attempted comeback with the Carolina Panthers, but he ended his two-year stint with an 8-9 record as a starter and a 77.3 QB rating.

However, Darnold is still just 26 years old and it’s fair to say that he hasn’t had the best coaching or leadership. Former Panthers head coach Matt Rhule is out of the NFL, as is Adam Gase, who had a 9-23 record as head coach of the New York Jets when Darnold was there from 2018 to 2020.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan clearly believes in Darnold’s talent, and he’s likely not alone.

Packers Can Relate to San Francisco QB Situation

Similarly to the 49ers, Green Bay doesn’t have a set-in-stone future for their QB situation. Love is set to make his first starts in the NFL since being drafted in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft, and the NFC North squad also added former Penn State QB Sean Clifford in the fifth round of this year’s draft.

Love definitely deserves a shot after waiting the better part of three years, but the reality is that the Packers’ QBs have one total start between the two. Darnold may not be the next Aaron Rodgers, but he can at least step into a regular-season game and feel familiar to the situation.

The 49ers trading Darnold does feel like a long shot, but they are in a fortunate spot and parlaying that into more value and assets is how San Francisco has built this roster and reached their recent heights.