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Vikings Agree to Terms with QB Sam Darnold


EAGAN, Minn. — Sam Darnold won't turn 27 until June, but his eyes have seen quite a bit from coast to coast.

The Southern California native played collegiately at USC before he was drafted No. 3 overall by the New York Jets in 2018. After two head coaches in three seasons, Darnold was traded to the Carolina Panthers in 2021.

Another coaching change occurred between his first and second season there, and Darnold opted to sign a one-year deal with San Francisco last year. After backing up Brock Purdy during the 49ers march to winning the NFC Championship — and the departure of Kirk Cousins to Atlanta as a free agent — Darnold has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Minnesota, the Vikings announced Wednesday at the start of the new league year.

Minnesota General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah issued a statement Monday about being unable to reach a deal with Cousins that worked for both sides. He and the Vikings moved quickly during the "legal tampering" window on reaching a deal with Darnold.

The Vikings obviously did their homework on pending free agents, but the team's familiarity of Darnold dates back to his draft year.

View photos of QB Sam Darnold who joined the Vikings during free agency.

After Cousins decided to end his first career free agency venture by signing with the Vikings instead of the Jets, New York tabbed Darnold for multiple reasons. The Jets had signed Josh McCown to a one-year deal in 2017 and re-signed him in 2018, about six weeks before drafting Darnold.

Things didn't go according to plan for Darnold with the Jets, who went 13-25 in games he started and 0-10 without him from 2018-20, or with the Panthers. Darnold went 8-9 with Carolina, which included a 4-2 record to close the 2022 season after Steve Wilks was named the interim head coach to replace Matt Rhule. The Panthers went 4-13 in games without Darnold from 2021-22.

Six years later, McCown is 44 and the new Vikings quarterbacks coach, reuniting with his former teammate as they begin their first hours together in a new role and trying to maximize Minnesota's offense under Head Coach Kevin O'Connell, another former Jets QB.

Beyond exposure to multiple systems, Darnold brings the athletic tools that made him the No. 3 pick and continued a family lineage of athletes. His grandfather, Dick Hammer, played college basketball and made the U.S. men's volleyball team for the 1964 Olympics. Hammer's wife Betty played volleyball (training with the U.S. National Team) and softball. Darnold's father, Mike, played football at Redlands College, and mother, Chris, played volleyball at Long Beach City College. His sister, Franki, played volleyball at Rhode Island (2012-15), and other family members also played college volleyball.

Darnold's lone start for San Francisco occurred in the final week of the regular season when the 49ers opted to rest multiple starters because they had clinched the No. 1 seed. He completed 16 of 26 passes for 189 yards with one touchdown and a passer rating of 96.5 in a 21-20 loss to the Rams.

He starts this next chapter having completed 1,082 of 1,811 passes (59.75 percent) for 12,064 yards with 63 touchdowns against 56 interceptions and a passer rating of 78.3.

The Vikings also have quarterbacks Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall under contract for 2024, and there's been plenty of speculation that Minnesota might also use a selection on a quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft.