The San Francisco 49ers are in an interesting spot at quarterback heading into the 2022 postseason. In a truly unexpected twist of fate, the team has not one, not two, but three signal callers that talent evaluators across the league would consider starting caliber in Brock Purdy, Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance. However, because the latter two are out for the rest of the season, the Niners find themselves a poorly executed snap away from calling journeyman Josh Johnson their starting quarterback.
In March 2023, the Niners’ situation with clear up considerably, with Garoppolo and Johnson due to hit free agency and Purdy and Lance remaining contracted on their rookie-scale deals.
Though some may suggest that the 49ers could decide between the two and sign a veteran quarterback to fill out their roster in the hopes of recouping draft capital, others, like Heavy Sports front office analyst and former NFL GM Randy Mueller, believe that San Francisco could instead pursue a full-on competition this offseason.
“They’re due to have a competition (in 2023). … I’ve got news for you, they might have two quarterbacks,” Mueller said during a December 29 Heavy Sports appearance. “Now the problem is, Brock Purdy is probably going to go into next year’s training camp as ‘the guy’ because he will have the skins on the wall. How do you not give him the first opportunity? So Trey Lance is going to have to earn his job back. I think if they add another veteran quarterback to that room, the 49ers could be poised for a long run at the top having solved their QB issues.”
Is there a world where the 49ers could go into Week 1 with Purdy at QB1 and Lance serving as his backup? Stranger things have certainly happened, like Mr. Irrelevant keeping an eight-game win streak alive on the way to a division pennant.
The San Francisco 49ers Don’t Have to Trade a QB in 2023
While some might suggest keeping two rookie-scale quarterbacks under the age of 25 with starting experience is a recipe for disaster, Mueller doesn’t fall into that camp. Sure, eventually, general manager John Lynch will have to make a decision on which player is their franchise guy, probably before Lance’s fifth year has to get picked up in 2024, but that doesn’t need to happen in 2023 unless someone comes with a deal that’s too good to be true.
“The contracts will not make Bock Purdy nor Trey Lance tradeable or really expendable. You don’t need to,” Mueller said. “I think you can sit on both those deals for another year and have no decision to make. I think Jimmy G is gone. I think that ship has sailed. He’ll end up somewhere else. There’ll be a demand for him. We see what’s happened around the league. There are some quarterback-starved teams right now.”
Would one of those quarterback-hungry teams opt to bypass Garoppolo and his broken foot to instead pursue Lance? ESPN’s Dan Graziano certainly thinks that’s a possibility, and he even has a potential team in mind for the deal.
ESPN Reporter Throws Out a Potential Trey Lance Trade
If the 49ers opt to make Lance available heading into 2023, one team to keep in mind, at least according to Graziano, is the Houston Texans, who at 2-13-1 through Week 17 are currently projected to pick No. 1 overall.
“The Houston Texans should trade their second-round pick (likely to be either No. 32 or No. 33 overall) to the San Francisco 49ers for quarterback Trey Lance,” Graziano wrote on December 28, 2022. “If Houston isn’t sure about the signal-callers at the top of the draft, this would allow it to bring in a high-upside player who turns 23 in May and has had the benefit of two years’ worth of high-level coaching and development in San Francisco. It also would allow the Texans to use their two first-round picks to instead find high-impact helpers on defense and the offensive line.”
“If the 49ers get to the Super Bowl with Brock Purdy, they’re going to be tempted to run it back with him. Getting something in return for Lance as he heads into the third year of his rookie contract would make sense, even if it’s far, far, far less than they gave up to get him in the first place.”
Would Lynch actually move off of Lance for a second-round pick when he gave up two firsts and a third-round pick to bring him to the Bay Area? If the Niners general manager accepts the sunken cost fallacy and believes strongly in Purdy’s long-term potential, there are a lot of very good players on San Francisco’s roster who were drafted in the second round, including Deebo Samuel and Aaron Banks.