Brock Purdy is making Trey Lance awfully uncomfortable
By Peter Panacy
It’s no longer a long shot for Brock Purdy to take over as the 49ers’ starting quarterback in 2023, and that should be a massive concern for Trey Lance.
Here’s a storyline no one predicted: San Francisco 49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy would somehow emerge from the depths of the 2022 NFL Draft to take over the starting job under head coach Kyle Shanahan, not only in relief of one established veteran in Jimmy Garoppolo, but also over the Niners’ prized possession from the 2021 draft, Trey Lance.
The less-believable storyline? Purdy wouldn’t just succeed, he’d thrive to the point where it’d almost be a foregone conclusion for Shanahan to pin the starting job for 2023 on the former Iowa State signal-caller’s uniform right now.
And yet here we are.
San Francisco hasn’t lost a game since Purdy relieved an injured Garoppolo way back in Week 13, and the numbers the rookie put up since have only helped grow his shocking reputation.
So, where is Lance in all of this?
With Purdy at the helm of a 49ers team that will have at least made it to the divisional round of the playoffs, Lance now finds himself in the uncomfortable situation of wondering what his immediate future holds.
With each Niners win accompanied by Purdy playing well, Lance’s future with San Francisco looks bleaker and bleaker.
Will 49ers start Brock Purdy over Trey Lance in 2023?
For those who forgot or didn’t quite know (it’s OK), Lance suffered a broken ankle way back in Week 2 and only his second game in as the 49ers’ full-time starting quarterback. Having spent his rookie 2021 season backing up Garoppolo, one can only imagine how frustrating it would be to get that chance but to ultimately lose it to an injury.
While the Niners’ lofty investment in Lance back in 2021 (three Round 1 draft picks used to secure the No. 3 overall selection) helped ensure he’d play a significant role in the franchise’s future, the on-field results ultimately matter the most.
In that department, Purdy has a hands-down edge.
It’s something NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport told KNBR 680 earlier this week (h/t David Bonilla of 49ers Webzone):
"Trey Lance, I think, could be very good, but it’s not like he was blowing the doors off the thing when he was in there earlier in the year. Brock Purdy comes in and has got that thing humming. I think it’s really impressive. …Like, how is he not the starting quarterback next year? … What more do you want? What is out there that he is not doing?"
Purdy owns a 5-0 regular-season record as a starter and already owns a playoff win with multiple records set in the process.
Lance, meanwhile, has a mere three NFL starts under his belt and has gone 1-2 in those contests.
Will Brock Purdy force 49ers to trade Trey Lance?
The other looming reality facing the Niners this offseason is what to do with Lance if Purdy ultimately winds up being the answer under center.
Garoppolo, a free agent to be, isn’t likely to return to San Francisco unless he’s named the starter in contractual negotiations, and Purdy is essentially ensuring that won’t happen anyway.
With Lance, though, things are a bit more challenging.
Having not played a full season since 2019, Lance is already way behind in his development, yet he’s contractually on the cheap anyway, and the 49ers wouldn’t mind retaining both him and Purdy while they’re both on their rookie deals.
Both would account for just over $10 million in salary for 2023, according to Over the Cap.
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That’s a good problem for the Niners to have. In contrast, Garoppolo is likely to command a free-agent deal worth about $20 million, annually.
Still, there could be more than a few quarterback-needy teams willing to dish out capital to San Francisco in exchange for the still-unproven but still-intriguing Lance.
The 49ers may never get back anything close to what they gave up to get Lance, no. But if the trade package is enticing enough, Shanahan and Co. will bite.
And that’ll force Lance to question his future even more, especially after he was almost automatically crowned as the franchise’s centerpiece after being taken so early in the 2021 draft.
If Purdy succeeds on a big scale, though, Lance being uncomfortable might not ultimately matter.