The quarterback carousel in the NFL is never-ending and tectonic shifts at the position over the last couple of weeks may have changed everything for the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers have been at the center of QB drama for the last three years, ever since the team drafted Jordan Love in the first round as the heir apparent to Aaron Rodgers. As we all know, Rodgers went on to win consecutive MVPs, all the while demanding trades, threatening retirement and ultimately signing a massive extension.
Amid all the turmoil and the very real threat of Rodgers playing in a different uniform, speculation swirled around where he might land. Several destinations emerged, though one popped up over and over again — the San Francisco 49ers.
The Niners have always made sense as a landing spot for Rodgers for a variety of reasons. He grew up in Northern California and played his college football at Cal, Berkeley. San Francisco has had a championship roster pretty much everywhere except at quarterback over the last three years, earning two trips to the NFC Championship Game and one Super Bowl berth. And finally, Rodgers specifically requested to be traded to the Bay Area prior to the 2021 NFL Draft.
The 49ers were interested in the deal, though Green Bay was not ready to cut ties with their quarterback at that time. As a result, San Francisco mortgaged its draft future to trade up from No. 12 to No. 3 and select Trey Lance to replace Jimmy Garoppolo.
Two years later, the young quarterback is the potential linch pin to a deal between the two franchises, neither of which is where they expected to be but both of which could be helped by a trade swapping Rodgers for Lance.
Lance Trade Offers Packers Several Good Options at QB Moving Forward
San Francisco was set to hand the keys to the franchise over to Lance this season, plans that were derailed when the quarterback suffered a serious ankle injury that required surgery to repair a fractured fibula and ligament damage.
Garoppolo stepped up in the meantime after returning on a one-year, $7 million deal. The veteran was having one of the best seasons of his career before he suffered a broken foot against the Miami Dolphins two weeks ago. Rookie seventh-round pick Brock Purdy stepped in and has performed admirably, leading the Niners to consecutive wins.
While it strains credulity to imagine San Francisco will bet a championship window on literally the last pick in the most recent draft, Purdy’s performance opens up an opportunity for the Niners to maximize both the roster they have now and the future of the franchise. The answer, in this scenario, is to trade Lance for Rodgers — or deal Lance for the requisite draft compensation if the Packers decide they don’t want to bring Lance into the fold. Purdy can then remain the backup in San Francisco as the team grooms him as the future of the position.
Jeff Howe of The Athletic floated the idea of Rodgers landing in San Francisco on November 30, an idea that has more merit now considering Purdy’s breakout onto the NFL scene.
“If Rodgers desires a new landscape, the 49ers immediately come to mind, but they don’t have a first-round pick until 2024 because they already moved up for Lance,” Howe wrote. “Perhaps they can move Lance and flip that capital to acquire Rodgers, but would it be enough?”
Love, Lance Would Make For Compelling Packers QB Room
Lance commanded two first-round picks and a third-round selection when the Niners swapped picks with the Dolphins to move up and draft him.
During his rookie season, Lance appeared in six games and earned two starts (1-1). He was solid, completing 41-of-71 passes for 603 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed the ball 38 times for 168 yards and a touchdown, per Pro Football Reference.
Lance’s numbers in two games in 2022 were not as stellar, though his first matchup was played during heavy rains against the Chicago Bears and he was hurt the next week out.
Lance carries a significant amount of promise, though two first-rounders and a third-rounder no longer seems like a reasonable price. However, one first-rounder and one third-rounder doesn’t feel entirely out of the question for a 22-year-old signal caller with impressive measurable traits.
If Green Bay is interested in dealing Rodgers this offseason, or Rodgers looks for a way out, Lance offers the Packers several options. They could push for the draft capital Lance is likely to command, or they could bring Lance in to compete with Love. While he has started only one game in his career, Love performed exceptionally well against the Philadelphia Eagles in relief of Rodgers earlier this year.
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has indicated that Green Bay intends to extend Love by picking up his fifth-year option, a decision the team must make by May of 2023. Bringing in Lance in a swap for Rodgers instead of draft picks would create a dynamic quarterback room in Green Bay rife with talent and competition. Lance is under contract for two more seasons and the Packers would have the option to pick up a fifth year on his deal as well, one season after they make their decision on Love.
The hypothetical move would help the Packers get younger and less expensive at quarterback and would set the team up for the future, while Rodgers offers the Niners their best shot at winning a title over the next couple of seasons.