After the new NFL year opened on March 17 but before the New York Jets sent quarterback Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for three draft picks, the San Francisco 49ers traded up to the No. 3 spot in the upcoming NFL Draft, presumably to select a new starting signal-caller, and the Washington Football Team signed journeyman veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the 49ers and Washington both contemplated making moves for Darnold ahead of free agency.
Note on the #Jets trade of Sam Darnold to the #Panthers: Prior to FA, two teams to take a hard look at Darnold were the #49ers and WFT, sources say. Washington had conversations about it & SF inquired about what it would take to happen, tho NYJ wasn’t ready to make a move yet.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 7, 2021
Interestingly, the 49ers and Indianapolis Colts were both linked with Darnold in February soon after Super Bowl LV. Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was also reportedly high on the 23-year-old amid speculation that Russell Wilson could force an exit from the Seahawks, but it now appears Wilson will remain Seattle's QB1 through and beyond the current offseason.
The Jets, meanwhile, are widely expected to select BYU Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson with the second pick of the draft.
According to multiple reports, the Panthers will exercise the fifth-year option attached to Darnold's contract and begin training camp sessions with him atop their depth chart.