Experts hand out grades for 49ers' Hargrave, Darnold moves


The 49ers certainly made waves on the first day of NFL free agency. 

San Francisco reportedly agreed to terms with both star defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and quarterback Sam Darnold to free-agent contracts on Monday, quickly filling two holes with two very different types of contracts. 

The 49ers reportedly gave Hargrave a four-year, $84 million contract, while agreeing to a one-year, $4.5 million contract with Darnold

Here's how the experts graded the 49ers' moves on Day 1 of free agency. 

Javon Hargrave

Seth Walder, ESPN

Grade: B+

"The 49ers' defensive front is still stacked," Walder writes. "The Niners splashed out on a legitimate star in Hargrave to bolster a pass rush that already features reigning MVP Nick Bosa and tackle Arik Armstead. Hargrave is a difference-maker; his 11 sacks last season were a career-high, but it was backed up by a strong 17% pass rush win rate at defensive tackle -- third-best in the league -- which showed his impact on a play-to-play basis. And it wasn't unique, as he ranked third in the metric in 2021 and sixth in 2020. The only downside to this deal is his age -- he's 30."

Tyler Sullivan, CBS Sports

Grade: A

"It didn't seem possible for San Francisco's defense to get scarier, and then they went out and signed arguably the best defensive player on the free agent market in Javon Hargrave," Sullivan writes. "The former Eagles defensive tackle cashed in on a four-year, $84 million deal to join the 49ers and create one of the more feared defensive lines in the league. Hargrave is coming off a 2022 season where he had 11 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, and 16 quarterback hits, all while primarily playing on the interior. He'll now situate himself next to Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw, while Nick Bosa works off the edge."

James Dator, Mark Schofield, Joseph Acosta, SBNation

Grade: A+

"The salary cap is a lie," Dator, Schofield, and Acosta write. "Despite only having $3.8M in effective cap space, the 49ers pulled off a coup by signing one of the best defensive players of free agency. They’ll work out the money side later, so this isn’t a huge issue for them.

"Since 2020 the only defensive tackle with a higher pass rush grade from Pro Football Focus is Aaron Donald, and now Hargrave slides into a defensive line with Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead. This is a huge move that takes the league’s best defense in 2021, and makes them even better. It’s going to be so much fun to see the havoc this team brings."

Dan Pizzuta, Sharp Football Analysis 

Grade: B+

"The 49ers don’t need Javon Hargrave, but man, is he fun to place on a line with Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead," Pizzuta writes. "Hargrave was third last season in pass rush win rate among defensive tackles. He had the same pressure rate as Chris Jones but had fewer hits and sacks because there were more players helping Hargrave out on the Philadelphia defensive line.

He’ll find himself in a similar situation with the 49ers. He’ll get another top interior player and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year on the edge. That will allow the 49ers to develop that second edge rusher — defensive line coach Kris Kocurek has been able to get career years out of a wide range of players at the position — whether that be Drake Jackson in his second year or someone else."

Gary Davenport, Bleacher Report

Grade: C+

"The San Francisco 49ers were throttled by the Philadelphia Eagles in last year's NFC Championship Game," Davenport writes. "On Monday, the Niners exacted a measure of revenge by poaching an important member of Philly's vaunted defensive line.

Paying that kind of money to a player who is on the wrong side of 30 and never had even eight sacks in a season prior to last year is a risky proposition. But Hargrave was excellent for the Eagles in each of the past two seasons. Combining him and superstar edge-rusher Nick Bosa could offer San Francisco a formidable inside-outside one-two punch."

RELATED: Report: Ferrell agrees to one-year contract with 49ers

Sam Darnold

Gary Davenport, Bleacher Report

Grade: B

"Last year, San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan turned Brock Purdy from "Mr. Irrelevant" to a legit NFL starter under center," Davenport adds. "Apparently, Sam Darnold is hopeful that Shanahan can have a similar effect on his floundering career. According to Schefter, Darnold has agreed to join the Niners on a one-year deal.

"Say what you will about Darnold, but he has started 56 games in his career. Provided that the financial commitment is minimal, he's not a bad Plan C."

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