Why the Tennessee Titans Are the Perfect Landing Spot for Trey Lance

Following Brock Purdy's rise, the San Francisco 49ers' Trey Lance could be on the trade market, and the Tennessee Titans need to put in a call.

Although the San Francisco 49ers gave up three first-round picks to move up and select Trey Lance less than two years ago, the former No. 3 overall pick may no longer have a starting job for the team that drafted him. If Brock Purdy takes the 49ers to the NFC title game or the Super Bowl, he’ll almost assuredly be San Francisco’s top quarterback in 2023.

If the 49ers decide to move on from Lance this offseason, his draft pedigree could make him a popular trade target. And there’s one team that makes the most sense for the ex-North Dakota State quarterback: the Tennessee Titans.

The Titans Should Trade for Trey Lance

There is one obvious link between the 49ers and Titans that should immediately place Tennessee at the top of Lance’s potential destinations. The Titans just hired Ran Carthon — who spent the last two seasons as San Francisco’s director of player personnel — as their new general manager, replacing Jon Robinson.

Carthon was working on the pro side of the 49ers’ front office, not in college scouting. But he was still likely an important voice in the room when San Francisco pulled the trigger on the deal to acquire Lance. It’s fair to assume he’s spent hours pouring over Lance’s tape and knows Lance the person. If Lance impressed Carthon leading up to the 2021 draft, he could make a play for the 49ers quarterback.

Examining athletes’ social media posts with a fine-tooth comb can be a fool’s errand, but Lance did post a “fingers crossed” emoji with a photo of Carthon after the latter was hired in Tennessee. Lance might just be excited about Carthon’s new opportunity, but he also may realize that Purdy has quietly taken over as San Francisco’s quarterback of the future.

The Titans Need a New Quarterback

Injuries and ineffectiveness forced the Titans to deploy three quarterbacks in 2022. Ryan Tannehill made 12 starts sandwiched around an ankle injury, third-round rookie Malik Willis started three times, and journeyman Joshua Dobbs started the final two games of Tennessee’s season, including the de facto AFC South Championship against the Jaguars in Week 18.

League-wide, 58 quarterbacks attempted at least 50 passes this season. Among the group, Tannehill ranked a respectable 19th in expected points added (EPA) per dropback. However, Dobbs finished 46th, while Willis ranked dead last.

MORE: QB Power Rankings 2022

After posting a QBR of at least 60.0 in his first three seasons as the Titans’ starter, Tannehill fell to just 49.2 in 2022. He’s still a viable starting quarterback in the NFL, but at age 34, he’s likely hitting the wall, and injury issues could start to pile up.

Plus, Tannehill’s cap charge for 2023 is $36.6 million, the fifth-highest figure in the league. Tennessee can save $17.8 million by releasing Tannehill this offseason, and their savings can grow to $27 million if they designate him as a post-June 1 cut.

Lance Is Affordable

The Titans will likely need to lock in that windfall because they’re projected to be more than $23 million over the 2023 salary cap. Tennessee has other candidates for release on its roster, including edge rusher Bud Dupree, left tackle Taylor Lewan, and linebacker Zach Cunningham. Still, none could create the savings that a Tannehill release would.

If the Titans want to have any chance at retaining their top two free agents — linebacker David Long and guard Nate Davis — they’ll have to consider moving on from Tannehill.

Lance, on the other hand, is highly affordable. Any team that acquires him this offseason would absorb the two years and $9.07 million remaining on his rookie contract. Lance’s new club would also inherit his 2025 fifth-year option, which they’d have to exercise or decline by May 2024.

For a team like the Titans in dire financial straits, picking up a 23-year-old lottery ticket like Lance at a heavily discounted rate could be a no-brainer.

One former NFL general manager still working in the league recently told Pro Football Network’s Adam Beasley that Lance would likely command a second-round pick “and something else” on the trade market. That could be a worthwhile risk for Tennessee, which holds the 41st overall pick in Round 2.

What if the Titans Don’t Pursue Lance?

Acquiring Lance should be on the table for the Titans, but we can’t pretend that Lance has been outstanding as an NFL quarterback. Through two years, we’ve barely seen him on the field.

Lance made two starts in relief of an injured Jimmy Garoppolo in 2021, then lasted just two games as San Francisco’s starter in 2022 before suffering a season-ending injury. He has four career games with at least 15 pass attempts, and he didn’t manage a QBR over 50.0 in any of them.

Young quarterbacks don’t often assimilate into the NFL without hiccups, especially those from FCS schools like North Dakota State. But it’s impossible not to compare Lance’s early production with that of Purdy, who’s experienced immense success as a rookie despite being the final selection of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Holding the No. 11 pick in the first round, the Titans might be just out of range for the top quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft. But if they decide to package a selection of picks to move up or go in an entirely different route under center, that could speak volumes about Lance’s standing around the NFL.

If the team that just hired a key executive from the 49ers’ front office and desperately needs a young quarterback solution doesn’t express any interest in trading for Lance, his NFL career could be over before it really starts.

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Related Articles