With Brock Purdy declared the San Francisco 49ers’ QB1 heading into the spring and Sam Darnold in place as a young-yet-experienced veteran backup quarterback, fans have been wondering what the future holds for Trey Lance, the man John Lynch traded three first-round picks and a third-round pick to acquire back in 2021. Would the 49ers consider trading the 22-year-old after just 262 offensive snaps? In the opinion of Matt Barrows, the 49ers beat writer for The Athletic, the answer to that question should be a resounding no, at least not in 2023.
“The main reason the 49ers would be reluctant to trade Lance right now is that they need numbers at the position,” Barrows wrote in his March 30 mailbag column. “Another reason is that they’re probably not getting a huge haul for him.
“It would be one thing if he’d spent years in the Kyle Shanahan system and had lots of experience under his belt. But the critique of Lance coming out of the draft — he just doesn’t have a lot of in-game reps — remains the same two years later. Maybe they could get a Day 2 pick? I don’t know.”
If the 49ers are truly done with Lance, then trading him now for a Day 2 pick might serve as a chance to get something for nothing in exchange for the third quarterback on their depth chart. Then again, both Kyle Shanahan and Jed York noted at the NFL Annual League Meeting that the 49ers prioritized adding depth this offseason, and it would appear keeping all three young quarterbacks to see which one is worthy of a starting job long-term is more valuable than a single Day 2 pick.
Matt Barrows Suggests a More Realistic Trey Lance Trade
Barrows noted that if Lynch wants to recoup some value for the former third-overall pick should he lose out on the QB competition, it should likely come in 2024, assuming he’s able to raise his value on the field.
“2024 trade seems a lot more likely than one in 2023,” Barrows wrote. “It would allow Lance to increase his value. And even then, the 49ers could conclude that having multiple capable quarterbacks is more important than extra draft picks. The 49ers currently have all their 2024 draft picks except their fifth-rounder (Christian McCaffrey trade), plus an estimated five compensatory picks.”
On paper, it makes more sense for a team to trade for Lance now because they would be afforded one more cost-controlled year with the 22-year-old quarterback under contract. Because he played only 84 offensive snaps in 2022, Barrows’ assertion is likely correct: If Lance can see the field and flash some of the offensive talents he showcased at North Dakota State, maybe another team would be willing to trade more assets for Lance, assuming, of course, he’s still available.
Trey Lance Is Open to a San Francisco 49ers QB Competition
Making an appearance on the “The Rich Eisen Show” in February, Lance was asked whether he’d been given any assurances that he would be the 49ers’ starting quarterback in 2023. Despite his draft pedigree and his starter status at the start of last season, Lance noted that he didn’t want anything handed to him and would instead like an opportunity to compete with Purdy for the job.
“It wasn’t a situation and I wouldn’t want it to be that way,” Lance said, according to SI Now. “Brock played way too well and Brock played at such a high level and handled himself the right way. I wouldn’t want it to be a situation where I’m just handed something. And I feel horrible obviously for Brock for his injury. For me, I mean, I truly believe everything happens for a reason whether it’s his, he’s going to be better for it, mine, I’m gonna be better for it. And I’m excited to just get on the field and compete. That’s all I want an opportunity to do.”
With some, including NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, believing that it will be Darnold, not Lance or Purdy, under center for San Francisco in Week 1, it’s clear the North Dakota product is in for a fight heading into September.