49ers a ‘Top Landing Spot’ for Former No. 2 Pick to Back Up Brock Purdy

49ers potential backup quarterback target Zach Wilson

Getty 49ers potential backup quarterback target Zach Wilson

Good for Sam Darnold. The 49ers backup from 2023 parlayed his one season with the team—which included one decent Week 18 start against the Rams—into a one-year, $10 million with the Vikings, which comes with an opportunity to win the starting job. 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is something of a quarterback whisperer, at least by reputation, and being in San Francisco for a year obviously helped Darnold rebuild his reputation.

Now, perhaps, the 49ers can do it again. With Brock Purdy as the starter and only Brandon Allen, last year’s veteran third-stringer, signed behind him, the 49ers are in position to take another reclamation project and see if they can’t make him a usable quarterback.

For the folks at Bleacher Report, that project could well be Zach Wilson of the Jets, whose career arc resembles Darnold’s a bit. B/R also has a mention for Ryan Tannehill, but Tannehill probably wants a better chance to start than he’d get with the 49ers. And as analyst Timothy Rapp writes in a B/R post titled, “Zach Wilson, Ryan Tannehill’s Top Landing Spots After Justin Fields Trade to Steelers,” Wilson is most in need of a spell in San Francisco.

49ers Could Add to Quarterback Room

Wilson would tick a few boxes for the 49ers as they reconfigure their quarterback room this winter. Obviously, Purdy is not going anywhere, and at age 32 when the season starts with just nine career starts under his belt, it’s unlikely that Allen will be the primary backup.

That’s where Wilson could come in.

“Brandon Allen is currently Brock Purdy’s backup,” Rapp wrote. “Either Wilson or Tannehill would provide competition for that role and likely a bit of an upgrade. And boy, would a year learning Kyle Shanahan’s offense potentially do wonders for Wilson’s confidence, even in a backup role.”

The trade market on Wilson has been slow after he logged three mostly miserable and injury-plagued seasons in New York. The Jets had made him the No. 2 overall pick out of BYU in 2021. In New York, it was expected that Wilson would supplant Darnold, who had been the No. 3 pick in the draft in 2018.

Wilson was destined for a backup role last season after the Jets traded for Aaron Rodgers in the offseason, but was thrust back into the starting job when Rodgers was injured with a torn Achilles tendon four plays into the opener.

Wilson came in and helped the team to a win over the Bills in relief of Rodgers, and had some nice moments during last season, including a two-touchdown, 301-yard performance in a 30-6 win over the Texans, in what might be the best game of his career.

But mostly, Wilson struggled last year, as he had done in the previous two seasons. The Jets were 4-7 in Wilson’s starts (5-7 if you count the Buffalo game) but for his career, the team is 12-21 when he starts, and he has logged a quarterback rating of just 73.2.

Zach Wilson in Need of Career Reset

Again, that is not unlike Darnold, who struggled with the Jets and posted a 13-25 record in three seasons playing for a wayward franchise. Perhaps the 49ers can rescue Wilson from that mess.

The Jets have painted themselves into a corner on Wilson and probably can’t expect to get much in return for him at this point. It’s no secret that the team wants to trade him, so the 49ers likely would have to give up only a late-round draft pick or a late pick swap.

And financially, the impact of a Wilson trade would not be great, either. He is slated to have a cap hit of $11 million next season, and there’s no way the 49ers would want that on their books. But the Jets would have to pick up the bulk of the deal, giving the 49ers a bargain at the position—a talented former high pick of the Jets in need of a career reset.

Sounds familiar.

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