Grading the 49ers’ free agency moves… so far

Grading the 49ers' free agency moves... so far

Here’s the thing about the early portion of NFL free agency: it’s “won” by bad teams.

Good teams don’t have much money to spend on big-time free agents. They’re too busy re-signing their own, winning players.

So congratulations to the Panthers, who are singing players left and right.

The 49ers are not in such a position.

Still, they’ve made two news-worthy signings and brought back two unrestricted free agents.

Some talent has exited, too. Here’s my grades (and overall grade) on the Niners’ free agency period, to date:

Signed: Javon Hargrave (DT)

Grade: B

Hargrave fits the 49ers’ pass-rusher mold to a T. I have some questions about his ability to stop the run — a more significant issue for the Niners at defensive tackle — but he’s an unquestioned upgrade at a position of massive need.

The Niners are in it for today, and adding Hargrave — 30 — to a front-loaded deal is a clear symbol of that.

Here’s my larger concern: the structure of the contract.

The Niners gave Hargrave a four-year contract with two void seasons tacked onto the end. That’s common practice for salary cap manipulation in this day and age.

But tomorrow will eventually come, and this deal has no obvious exit route. For a defensive tackle on his third team whose value is predicated on burst off the line of scrimmage, this could be a big issue down the line.

The Niners did not learn the lesson of the Dee Ford contract. In all likelihood, they will eventually have to eat a massive dead money bill.

It’ll be worth it if Hargrave helps this team win a Super Bowl. But he better be an obvious hit from Day 1, because Days 600-plus are cost-prohibitive.

Signed: Sam Darnold (QB)

Grade: C

The 49ers had to add a quarterback this offseason, if for no other reason than to correct last season’s mistake, where they needed four. Add in Brock Purdy’s injured elbow, and there was too much uncertainty not to bolster the room.

But does Sam Darnold bolster the room?

The Niners are paying Darnold $3.5 million, guaranteed, to, in theory, be the third string and push Lance at the beginning of training camp.

This is a reclamation project for both parties. Darnold wants to prove he can still play in this league, and is hoping Kyle Shanahan’s offense will unlock his potential.

Maybe he should be paying the Niners.

Alas, Shanahan wants a high-upside, no-drama quarterback, but doesn’t want to pay borderline starter money.

But seeing as Darnold’s issues haven’t been scheme-related and Shanahan doesn’t have a great track record with project quarterbacks in San Francisco (Lance, Josh Rosen, C.J. Beathard), this arrangement seems strange.

Of course, ideally, Darnold only plays some preseason games and is traded for a Day 2 draft pick before the start of the season.

That’s when the Niners will sign Matt Ryan, right?

Re-signed: Jake Brendel (C)

Grade: A

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