Brock Purdy playing so well down the stretch couldn’t possibly convince the 49ers that it’d be wise to trade Trey Lance, their top investment from 2021, right?
Last offseason, San Francisco 49ers second-year quarterback Trey Lance was arguably the most discussed and potentially most divisive player on the Niners roster, certainly outside wide receiver Deebo Samuel‘s contractual drama.
But, alas, none of the polarizing elements were Lance’s fault. He was being crowned San Francisco’s new starter just over a year after the team used the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on him.
Did it all mean quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was going? Staying?
Staying? OK, but as a backup only, correct? But Lance was hurt in Week 2 and done for the season, which led to Garoppolo having his best year ever with San Francisco, only to be hurt himself and out for the year in Week 13.
Enter rookie quarterback Brock Purdy.
Purdy, yes. The first signal-caller to defeat future Hall of Famer Tom Brady in a first-ever NFL start. The same “Mr. Irrelevant” as the draft’s final pick, who has now helped the 49ers win three games in a row with Garoppolo sidelined, including an NFC West-clinching primetime win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 15 that ensured Purdy would command national attention.
Purdy seems to be the focal point for the Niners now. Lance is the forgotten commodity.
Not surprisingly, that’s led to some pretty wild takes and overreactions, ones that’ll likely continue but potentially get more reasonable if Purdy stays hot.
49ers hot take: Niners should trade Trey Lance to make way for Brock Purdy
No, this isn’t Niner Noise tossing stuff out there to see what sticks. The notion of trading away Lance to the highest bidder in order to make room for Purdy to be QB1 in San Francisco is something that’s already discussed elsewhere in the NFL media room.
Case in point, a Q&A session with Jack Hammer of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat in which he responded to a query about trading Lance by writing:
"As impressive as Brock Purdy has been in his first three starts, trading Trey Lance this offseason would not be an intelligent decision for San Francisco. …The Niners’ best bet is to roll the ball out and let the two quarterbacks compete for the starting job throughout the offseason. The competition will make both better. Let the best man win."
Likewise, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch addressed the same question, arriving at the same conclusion as Hammer but also throwing out a small caveat about the 49ers potentially running out of patience with Lance:
"I don’t think the 49ers are close to giving up on Lance, but if they do have major misgivings? Then, yes, this offseason would be the time to recoup some of their significant investment in the 2021 No. 3 pick.Also: If the 49ers have become at least lukewarm on Lance and fall in love with one of the top QBs in the 2023 draft? Then they’d listen if a Lance-loving team offered a premium first-round pick."
Both assessments make sense. And they make even more sense with the understanding Garoppolo probably isn’t going to re-sign with the Niners on a free-agent deal unless it’s with the full understanding of him being the starter in 2023.
No, Jimmy G won’t want to go through the awkwardness that was the last training camp through Week 1 of the current year.
However, that’s even more of a reason to retain Lance.
49ers must take a ‘wait and see’ approach with Trey Lance, Brock Purdy
It’s understandable for both fans and perhaps the team alike to be running out of patience with Lance, who has now seen roughly the equivalent of four NFL games since being drafted in 2021. Considering his last full year as a starter at any level was in 2019 and he won’t assume that role again until 2023, there’s been some serious time that has passed.
However, it shouldn’t take a massive dive into the film or hours of statistical analysis to conclude much of anything about Purdy.
Yes, Purdy, who has played essentially 11 quarters of meaningful NFL football, not much fewer than what Lance has played, has looked poised and in command on offense. And he’s done so in notable situations, too, helping beat Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before knocking off the Hawks in prime time despite dealing with rib and oblique injuries.
Should that kind of play continue, especially with San Francisco looking to make a deep playoff run, it would be fair to ask whether or not Lance would command some serious trade value.
The 49ers aren’t at that point, though. They’re not even close.
Until then, the notion of trading Lance is little more than a hot take and a longshot idea.