With Darnold as Brock Purdy's backup, San Francisco is reportedly exploring its options with Trey Lance, per Jeff Howe of The Athletic. The organization traded up from the No. 12 pick all the way to the No. 3 spot to draft Lance in 2021.
#49ers QB Sam Darnold was named the team’s No. 2 QB, per me and @TomPelissero. He’ll be the backup to Brock Purdy to begin the season.
This further puts the future of former No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance in some doubt. pic.twitter.com/ig7PVp4lgn
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 23, 2023
Darnold, the former No. 3 pick of the 2018 draft, joined the 49ers in free agency as Jimmy Garoppolo joined the Las Vegas Raiders. Prior to his arrival in San Francisco, Darnold was an intermittent starter for the Carolina Panthers after a rocky three-year tenure with the New York Jets.
Lance was named starting quarterback for the team's preseason opener earlier this month and had a rough showing. He completed 10 of 15 passes for 112 yards against the Raiders, a performance that featured a late rally. He also took four sacks and narrowly avoided two interceptions, including one in the end zone.
Despite reports of a potential trade, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan told KNBR he hopes to keep Lance on the roster this season: “I mean this isn’t a thing where we’re giving up on Trey. This is more of how Brock played in his seven games and that was decided before the season started, and how Sam’s looked. They’ve both looked good but we have to make a decision here. You only get so many reps at it. We feel, starting about 10 days ago, Sam really separated himself, and we've got to keep it real in that way."
At 23, Lance's professional career has been tumultuous from the start. After the 49ers selected him out of North Dakota State University, the young quarterback was thrust into a win-now situation despite the development he would need. Garoppolo, who was two years removed from leading San Francisco to the Super Bowl, recently admitted it was "real awkward" to have his apparent replacement at backup quarterback.
Lance got his first opportunity in Week 4 of his rookie season with Garoppolo out with a calf injury, which was cut short when he sprained his knee. The injury threw a wrench into Shanahan's plan to ease Lance into the starting spot. He had a short-lived stint as QB1 last season after he sustained a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2. The 49ers had to turn back to Garoppolo before he sustained a foot injury and Purdy, a seventh-round rookie, replaced him in Week 13.
Lance was forced back into the backup conversation when Shanahan said Purdy "earned that right to be the guy" after leading the 49ers to the NFC championship game this past season with a 7-1 record.
Shanahan said San Francisco received trade calls for Lance back in April, but they didn't seem to impress general manager John Lynch. Now, he might be more motivated to make a deal.
“We’ll always try to do right for Trey. If there’s a better situation that his heart’s in, we’re going to make sure not to hurt him in that way," Shanahan said on KNBR.
San Francisco will play the Los Angeles Chargers in its final preseason game on Friday. The team is planning to play all of its starters in the finale. Practice began shortly after Wednesday's news hit, and Lance was not present, which Shanahan said was his decision to give the QB a chance to clear his head.
Shanahan said the plan is for Lance to play Friday against the Chargers.