San Francisco 49ers Add Javon Hargrave, Lose Jimmy Garoppolo When Free Agency Opens

The first day of the NFL’s free agent mock period brought a whole lot of action from the San Francisco 49ers.

It was almost a foregone conclusion that players like quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey and defensive back Jimmy Ward would leave San Francisco once the market opened. All three signed lucrative deals with other teams in the early hours of the draft period.

General manager John Lynch and Co. really made a splash by signing one of the top free agents. In a surprising move, San Francisco signed former Philadelphia Eagles Pro Bowl defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to a massive four-year, $84 million contract. When completed when the NFL’s new year opens on Wednesday, it will make Hargrave one of the highest-paid players at his position in the NFL.

As I predicted would happen, the 49ers also brought in some insurance at quarterback by signing former New York Jets and Carolina Panthers tight end Sam Darnold to a one-year deal. To cap things off, the defending NFC West champions also brought back backup defensive tackle Kevin Givens.

Below, I’ll break down all of this 49ers action from the first day of the NFL’s free agent mock period with some in-depth analysis.

The departure of Jimmy Garoppolo

Depending on who you ask, Garoppolo’s six-year tenure in Northern California was either a success or a huge disappointment. He posted a 38-17 record as San Francisco’s starter, but struggled when it mattered most. Garoppolo’s inability to stay healthy also played a role in his departure from the 49ers organization.

Ultimately, the Super Bowl quarterback signed a three-year, $72.75 million contract with the Las Vegas Raiders. This gives Garoppolo an opportunity to start somewhere else while providing a veteran with a big salary.

History will tell us all about Garoppolo’s career with the 49ers. It didn’t lead to a Lombardi trophy. But consistent contention and three NFC Championship Game appearances in the past four years should make for fond memories.

San Francisco 49ers Add Sam Darnold

Immediately after it was reported that Garoppolo had signed with Las Vegas, the 49ers signed Darnold to a one-year deal. The terms of the contract are not yet known. It is expected to be encouraging.

Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick of the New York Jets in 2018, spent the last two seasons with the Carolina Panthers. After returning from a high ankle sprain last season, the USC product threw seven touchdowns compared to three interceptions while boasting a 4-2 record as Carolina’s starter.

As for Darnold’s entire career, the 25-year-old quarterback has struggled in the NFL. Including his three-year run in New Jersey, the still-young quarterback has thrown for 61 touchdowns with 55 interceptions in 55 starts.

San Francisco just brought in Darnold to provide insurance for youngsters Brock Purdy and Trae Lance. Purdy just had surgery on his throwing elbow. It’s possible his return timetable could be extended to the 2023 regular season. As for Lance, he suffered an ankle injury less than two games into last season. There was a need for depth in the quartermaster’s room. At least Darnold provides that on the cheap.

Mike McGlinchey signed a big money contract in NFL free agency

San Francisco brass hinted that it would be difficult to bring McGlinchey back given the market they expected him to receive in free agency. Even before the cheating scandal broke, the former first-round pick out of Notre Dame was being linked to other teams.

Ultimately, the former 49ers starting right tackle signed a massive five-year, $87.5 million contract with the Denver Broncos. It included $50 million in total guarantees.

McGlinchey, 28, was a stabilizing force at right tackle for the 49ers during his five-year career in Northern California. He started all 69 games he appeared in during this span.

Thus, issues in pass protection kept McGlinchey from being considered elite. It’s probably also one of the reasons San Francisco wasn’t going to get into a bidding war for his services.

San Francisco 49ers on Forbes NFL Team Rankings

To replace House candidate Mike McGlinchey

In what was ultimately a prelude to things to come, San Francisco re-signed restricted free agent Colton McKeivitz earlier in the offseason. The 2020 fifth-round pick out of West Virginia has just five career starts over three seasons.

The youngster has shown some flashes in his career. That included playing well on the left side in place of Trent Williams against the Los Angeles Rams in October.

Jimmy Ward lands with the Houston Texans

The writing was on the wall here too. Ward hinted he was going to leave the 49ers in free agency before the market opened. He was unhappy playing multiple roles in the backfield.

San Francisco’s longest tenured player eventually acquired former 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and the Houston Texans on a two-year, $13 million deal.

The San Francisco 49ers had planned for Jimmy Ward to leave

San Francisco re-signed former Pro Bowl safety Tashaun Gipson to a one-year deal (terms unknown) a day before the offseason opened. The veteran safety played extremely well last season when Ward was injured. In fact, he made it difficult for the 49ers to bring Ward back at free safety once he returns.

In 17 games (all starts), Gipson recorded 61 tackles with five interceptions. He had a 57.1% completion rate and a 63.8 QB rating when targeted. Gipson is expected to start alongside All-Pro safety Talanoa Hufanga next season as San Francisco looks to add a young safety in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Blockbuster Jevon Hargrave signing

As I mentioned above, this signing came out of left field. San Francisco was really interested in the defensive tackle heading into free agency. I just didn’t think the team would pay a lot of money at this position.

That’s exactly what the 49ers did, guaranteeing Hargrave $40 million after the 30-year-old veteran had a career-best season in 2022 with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Hargrave recorded 16 quarterback hits, 11 sacks and 10 tackles, anchoring one of the best defensive lines in modern NFL history.

To say this signing is big time would be an understatement. Hargrave will now team up with reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa to form an elite duo along San Francisco’s defensive line. Add in the presence of defensive tackle partner Arik Armstead, and this could be a dominant unit.

Javon Kinlaw’s future in San Francisco

The background here is obvious. The San Francisco brass aren’t sure Kinlaw can stay healthy. Kinlaw, the No. 14 pick in 2020, has played in a total of 10 games over the past two seasons due to multiple injuries. When on the field, he just hasn’t been consistent.

Interestingly, San Francisco originally selected Kinlaw with the pick they acquired in DeForest Buckner’s blockbuster trade with the Indianapolis Colts in 2020. Now he must be replaced by the free agent signing in Hargrave, who made a deal similar to the one Buckner got in Indianapolis.

Whether the 49ers look to trade Kinlaw remains to be seen. There probably isn’t a strong market for his services. But the decision to sign Kevin Givens on Monday could play a role in the decision-making process.

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