The San Francisco 49ers seem to have reached a breaking point with Trey Lance. On Wednesday, NFL Media reported that Sam Darnold to Brock Purdy heading into 2023, sending the former first-round pick down the depth chart to a third-string reserve. In the wake of this decision, NFL Media added that the Niners will explore their options with Lance, potentially setting the stage for a trade out of the Bay Area. That said, the front office has been shopping Lance for much of the offseason, per The Athletic, and the team never received a significant trade offer.
Trey Lance not attending practice was the head coach's idea, after Kyle Shanahan had to tell his young quarterback the difficult news that morning. Shanahan said to "take the day off, get away" and felt it was the best thing for him, via ESPN.
Lance was given the keys to the 49ers offense last season but suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2. The injury gave Jimmy Garoppolo his starting job back, but the veteran injured his foot in Week 13, paving the way for Purdy's takeover. Lance is 2-2 as a starter in his two NFL seasons and has completed 54.9 percent of his passes for 797 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions in eight career games played. Unfortunately, injuries have been a headline in the 23-year-old's young career. He revealed last offseason that a affected his rookie campaign, causing him to throw the football differently, and then, of course, suffered a broken ankle this past season.
"We gave [Lance] a big chance to win that 2-spot this year ... it was a very tough fight, but in the long run, Sam ended up winning it," Shanahan said Wednesday.
It remains to be seen how much Lance can improve at the NFL level, and now it appears unlikely he'll ever be able to tap into his potential as a member of the 49ers. With the team moving in a different direction at both the starter and backup positions at quarterback, let's examine some potential landing spots for Lance if he is, in fact, dealt.
According to Pro Football Talk, the Vikings and 49ers about Lance leading up to the draft at the NFL Scouting Combine. With Minnesota not making any long-term moves at the quarterback position throughout the draft, it would stand to reason that they could rekick the tire on potentially acquiring Lance from the Niners.
Kirk Cousins is entering the final year of his contract with the Vikings and both sides don't appear to be rushing to the negotiating table before the start of the regular season, which opens up the possibility that this is the QB's last year in Minnesota. It wouldn't be the worst strategy for GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to bring in Lance and allow him to serve in a backup role while leaning Kevin O'Connell's offense as a potential successor to Cousins for 2024.
At this point, it's hard to imagine any team trading for Lance to be their immediate starter. The best he can hope for is that he lands with a team with an aging quarterback that looks at him as a potential success, similar to what we highlighted with Minnesota above. The Rams could also fall in that category, but it remains to be seen if the Niners would even consider trading him within the division. That said, if they view him as a third-string option, maybe that takes the pressure off and they simply don't see a risk of him potentially burning them twice a year down the lead.
Matthew Stafford is entering his age-35 season and retirement could be knocking on the door over the next few years. Getting a talent like Lance within Sean McVay's system with zero pressure to start anytime soon could be his best chance at someday ascending and being a long-term option for Los Angeles.
How comical would this be? It was the Dolphins who the 49ers traded up with to get to the No. 3 overall selection to take Lance in 2021. San Francisco shipped out a boatload of assets to go up that high in the draft which Miami ultimately turned into Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Bradley Chubb. Imagine after all that, they also get the quarterback taken with that pick!
But it's not just comedic value why we're putting the Dolphins on this list. There is a relationship between the two franchises with former 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel now serving as the Dolphins head coach. He was with Lance during his rookie season and, in theory, should know plenty about the quarterback. Now, it's important to note that this could go both ways: McDaniel's inner knowledge of Lance could be looked at as a good thing with the coach believing he could tap into his potential or it could be looked at as a negative with McDaniel knowing full well that Lance isn't a future starter. If it's the former, Lance would be a fascinating project for McDaniel and possible insurance for Tua Tagovailoa, who dealt with a number of head injuries last season which is cause for concern for his availability in the seasons to come.