49ers rumors: Maybe those early critical reports on Trey Lance were true after all

49ers fans didn't take it well when Matt Lombardo said the Niners were unimpressed with Trey Lance. But recent and ongoing developments seem to back up Lombardo's original report.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

Remember back when NFL insider Matt Lombardo reported the 49ers were 'underwhelmed' by Trey Lance? Maybe Lombardo was on to something.

Back in the spring of 2022, then-FanSided NFL insider Matt Lombardo stirred the proverbial pot quite a bit by reporting that the San Francisco 49ers were "continually underwhelmed by Trey Lance," their top pick from the previous year's NFL Draft and a player whose trade-up commanded an awful lot of future draft capital.

Considering the investment, paralleled with the hype that Lance generated upon his selection, it's not hard to see why Lombardo received plenty of backlash from Niners fans everywhere.

Although it's worth noting that Lombardo was reporting what he heard, not coming up with an opinion. Those two things are very, very different.

Plus, Lombardo was a colleague of ours here at FanSided, so it's only natural to come to his defense in this particular occasion.

Not long after that tweet, Lombardo joined the Bay Area's 95.7 The Game to talk about what he had heard (h/t 49ers Webzone), and the insider's commentary was revealing enough:

"This all stems from a conversation that I had with an executive who's pretty tight with people within the 49ers organization. Then following up with a couple of members of the coaching staff. The feeling around San Francisco, dating back to last summer during training camp, was a little bit of disappointment over the Trey Lance that arrived in training camp versus what they saw on film at North Dakota State from an arm-strength standpoint, from a deep-ball accuracy standpoint.

And then you look at when he got into games this season. He didn't exactly set the world on fire. Now, I know he had the injury. I know that [he was] a rookie, and it certainly takes time for NFL quarterbacks to develop, but the 49ers gave up a lot to get Trey Lance.

And the questions that I keep hearing about the deep-ball accuracy and the arm strength in practice, some whispers about how quickly he is understanding the playbook, and all of those things, the general vibe is this might not have been what the 49ers hoped they were getting when they gave up all that draft capital last year to go and get him."

A little over a year later, Lance is now looking at the very real possibility of being the third quarterback on the Niners depth chart behind the presumed starter, Brock Purdy, and the team's recent offseason free-agent pickup, Sam Darnold, whose $3.5 million in guaranteed money all but guarantees he'll make the 53-man roster, too.

Sure, Lance essentially missed all of his 2022 campaign because of a season-ending ankle break in Week 2, and that was supposed to be his first full year as a starter.

Now, entering year three of his pro career, Lance has just four regular-season starts and only one full season (2019) in which he was a full-time starter at either the collegiate or NFL levels.

From that vantage point, and in addition to what Lombardo said, it's not hard to see why San Francisco might potentially be giving up on Lance.

Trey Lance generates conflicting reports, but 49ers have already revealed their hand

Last April during the 2023 NFL Draft, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the 49ers weren't going to trade Lance despite plenty of speculation. However, he added that the Niners may look to move Lance later during the summer, perhaps August, if and when another team lost its quarterback to a serious injury or major regression.

That added more ammunition to the argument that Lance had fallen out of favor, backing up Lombardo's earlier claim.

Then, 95.7 The Game's Marc Grandi speculated the same, too, despite reports to the contrary:

Grandi is calling out NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco to an extent, as Maiocco told KNBR 680 earlier this offseason that the Niners like Lance now "more than they ever have since they've had him."

Was Maiocco serving as a mouthpiece for San Francisco, potentially in an attempt to beef up Lance's value on the trade market?

Perhaps. But it might not matter.

Earlier this offseason, general manager John Lynch already all but crowned Purdy as the 49ers' starter, provided he's healthy from offseason elbow surgery, and that was all that's needed to stain Lance's value and reputation going forward.

Trey Lance rumors reveal 'where there's smoke, there's fire'

Going back to Lombardo's original report, and there were plenty of others along the way, many were critical of Lance at a point where there would have been little reason to do anything else but build him up in the press.

Yes, reports can be overblown and overhyped to help create media buzz and interest (and this tactic is as old as the media itself), but the sheer volume and number of reports that paralleled what either Lombardo or Rapoport have said don't exactly paint a glowing endorsement of Lance.

It doesn't mean Lance is doomed with the Niners, per se. If anything, the reports and rumors only create a base point for the quarterback to either stay at or exceed once training camp begins.

That's the level of expectation.

Still, perhaps those who were critical of Lombardo's original report should rescind those thoughts.

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