Trey Lance Trade Rumors: What Could San Francisco 49ers Get in Return?

Trey Lance is the forgotten man in the San Francisco 49ers' quarterback equation, but his name will likely return to the headlines once their season ends.

Brock Purdy’s remarkable run as the emergency quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers has raised a significant long-term question for the organization: What to do with Trey Lance?

The deeper the Niners go into the playoffs — and with a win over the Dallas Cowboys Sunday they would reach the NFC Championship Game for the third time in four years — the more likely it is Purdy will be their starting quarterback in 2023.

This would likely mean that Lance — whom San Francisco traded three first-round picks to acquire in 2021 — would be the highest-profile backup in the league.

Could the San Francisco 49ers Trade Trey Lance?

On paper, that’s almost unthinkable — and a remarkable mismanagement of resources. And yet, anyone who has watched Lance as a pro vs. Purdy as a pro knows there’s no comparison.

Purdy, including the postseason, has been on the field for 445 NFL snaps. He’s 6-0 as a starter and has completed 66% of his passes with 16 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, and has averaged 8.5 yards per pass attempt. Purdy’s career passer rating is 111.

Compare Purdy’s stats to Lance’s: 262 snaps. 2-2 record. 54.9% completions, 5 touchdowns, 3 interceptions. 7.8 yards per attempt. Passer rating of 84.5.

Purdy, the rookie selected with the last pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, this year has out-performed not just Lance but also Jimmy Garoppolo, who remains out indefinitely with a broken foot.

Garoppolo is a free agent after this season and is almost certainly not part of the Niners’ plans. But Purdy and Lance very much remain under contract for the next few years.

And while the easy thing for Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch to do would be to hold an open competition between those two next summer for QB1, the decision seems to already be made.

At least that’s the view of The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami, a respected, veteran Bay Area scribe who wrote this week that Purdy “has done more than enough in just over a month of brilliant play to lock himself in as the team’s presumed starting quarterback going into the offseason, training camp, the 2023 regular season and probably a lot longer than that.”

Pros and Cons of Trading Trey Lance

Every plan in the NFL should be written in pencil, not ink. And the Niners’ altered vision of Lance is Exhibit A.

Before San Francisco traded the farm to take Lance third overall in 2021, the team’s quarterback situation was far different. Garoppolo had just come off another injury-riddled season. He missed 10 of 16 games and performed below the team’s standards in games in which he was able to play.

The 49ers at the time believed (probably accurately) that Garoppolo had a hard ceiling, and they needed a more dynamic talent at the position to make the jump from a good NFL team to the best NFL team.

But all the talent in the world is useless if you can’t use it to execute plays as called. And Lance has shown little ability to do that in an admittedly limited sample size.

Argument Against Trading Trey Lance

It would be an enormous organizational embarrassment to give up on a player that the Niners gave up so much to acquire — particularly at pennies on the dollar.

Plus, Lance still has a significant upside. The natural tools that led many to compare Lance to Patrick Mahomes haven’t gone anywhere.

What’s more, it would be more than a little humiliating if Lance went to another team and fulfilled his promise — particularly if Purdy regressed to the player almost every NFL team thought he would be prior to the 2021 draft.

Argument For Trading Trey Lance

If you have full conviction you have your guy long-term in Purdy, Lance is a wasted asset. Teams need to make the right decision, not the least-embarrassing decision.

And again, we’ve seen little to no evidence that Lance will be a better pro than Purdy — and we have a fraction of the information that the Niners have.

They’d be better off getting something for him while he still has value than letting him waste another year on the bench. Just ask the Packers and Jordan Love.

Trey Lance Trade Value

Several factors beyond performance determine a potential trade value for Trey Lance. Among them:

  • Age (Lance turns just 23 in May)
  • Years remaining on his rookie contract (two, plus the fifth-year option)
  • Health (Lance was still on crutches this week after a second ankle surgery)
  • Contract (Lance would cost his new team just $9.1 million total over the next two years; the Niners would incur an $11 million cap hit)

There is some recent precedent for a highly-drafted quarterback getting dealt very early in his career. The Dolphins gave up the 62nd overall pick in 2019 for Josh Rosen, a year after the Cardinals selected him 10th overall.

That turned out to be a bad trade for the Dolphins and an excellent trade for the Cardinals. But the terms of the trade is probably pretty close to what San Francisco would get for Lance.

A former NFL general manager and current personnel executive told Pro Football Network that the price he’d be willing to pay for Lance is a second-round pick “and something else.”

Would that be enough for the Niners to pull the trigger? It might depend on what they see out of Purdy this weekend — and hopefully beyond.

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