Sam Darnold

Aaron Rodgers Does Not Close Door On In-Season Return; Jets Have Not Called 49ers On Sam Darnold

Suffering a ruptured Achilles four plays into his Jets tenure, Aaron Rodgers underwent surgery this week. The four-time MVP was close to retiring before joining the Jets, but he offered a clue into his post-2023 plans shortly after the injury. Early signs point to Rodgers playing in 2024.

[RELATED: Jets Not Planning To Contact Tom Brady]

Rodgers still did not slam the door shut on a question Friday about returning this season, in the event the Jets make the playoffs. While the 39-year-old passer refused to put a timetable on his comeback effort, he included a Kevin Garnett/”anything is possible” reference — in response to a question about coming back in the postseason — during his latest Pat McAfee Show appearance (video link).

It doesn’t do any good to make prognostications, other than help my own mental state, but yeah, I’m gonna try and push this thing as much as it’ll allow me to,” Rodgers said. “There’s markers I’ve gotta see — where I’m at after a week and two weeks and a month and two months — and then we’ll see what the conversation is from there.”

Players have returned months after Achilles injuries in the not-so-distant past. Terrell Suggs and Michael Crabtree came back from their maladies — in 2012 and 2013, respectively — during the regular season. Of course, the Ravens linebacker and 49ers wide receiver both went down in May. Suggs returned Oct. 21; Crabtree was back Dec. 1. Cam Akers suffered an Achilles tear in July 2021; he returned in time for the Rams’ Week 18 game that season. Of course, Akers was not effective upon coming back that year.

Rodgers is considerably older than this trio at the time of injury, and it would be shocking if he became a realistic candidate to come back this season. It certainly says a lot about his change in mindset upon being traded that he would go from being “90% retired” to considering a radical comeback in the event the Jets made the playoffs — or advanced deep into the postseason.

Give me the doubts, give me the timetables, give me all the things that you think can, should or will happen, because all I need is that one little extra percent of inspiration,” Rodgers said. “That’s all I need. So, give me your doubts, give me your prognostications and then watch what I do.”

The Jets have not signed a quarterback to fill out their depth chart. Although Zach Wilson underwhelmed to the point the Jets benched him and then charted an aggressive course to add a veteran, the team has attempted to throw its support behind the former No. 2 overall pick as a starter. Ex-Rodgers Packers backup Tim Boyle is in place as Wilson’s backup ahead of Week 2. The Jets have been connected to Colt McCoy, Brett Rypien and the recently retired Chad Henne in the wake of Rodgers’ injury. McCoy remains a free agent, and no indications have emerged Henne would unretire if asked to do so. The Rams bumped Rypien to their 53-man roster to prevent a potential Jets poaching, but CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson indicates Gang Green’s Rypien interest was not believed to be serious.

On another front, John Lynch said Friday (via the San Jose Mercury News’ Can Inman) the 49ers did not receive a call from the Jets on Sam Darnold. With the 49ers trading Trey Lance to the Cowboys last month, trading Darnold back to the Jets would seemingly be a nonstarter for a team that has dealt with a number of QB injuries in recent years. The Jets made the decision to trade their three-year starter in 2021 and draft Wilson in 2021, collecting second-, fourth- and sixth-round picks from the Panthers.

49ers To Name Sam Darnold Backup QB; Team Exploring Trey Lance Options

Sam Darnold has beaten out Trey Lance for the 49ers’ backup quarterback job, Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of report (on Twitter). As a result, the former San Francisco starter’s status going into his third season is uncertain.

Playing ahead of Lance in the 49ers’ second preseason game, Darnold had been expected to begin the season as Brock Purdy‘s backup. Wednesday’s announcement, however, brings clarity on one end and adds doubt on another. After going into last season as the 49ers’ unquestioned starter, Lance has seen his stock crater. Lance is not at 49ers practice Wednesday, the San Jose Mercury News’ Cam Inman tweets.

Rumblings about a Lance trade emerged before the draft, though the 49ers denied they were shopping him. Lynch spoke to Lance about the rumors, and the athletic passer indicated he was not seeking a trade. That all may change now. The Vikings were on the radar for Lance before the draft, and Rapoport suggested this as a landing spot for the Marshall, Minn., native. But the Vikes, who roster ex-49er Nick Mullens behind Kirk Cousins, drafted Jaren Hall in Round 5.

The 49ers have continued to shop Lance for much of the offseason, The Athletic’s Dianna Russini tweets, noting no significant offer has come the team’s way. In April, however, Russini notes the Vikings and 49ers were pretty far down the road on a trade (Twitter link). Considering the lack of evidence regarding Lance’s NFL capabilities, it is difficult to foresee the 49ers receiving an especially worthwhile proposal. That will put the organization to a decision with 2021 third’s overall choice.

Prior to free agency’s outset, John Lynch spoke of the 49ers adding another QB due to Lance coming off two ankle surgeries and Purdy rehabbing a torn UCL. Rather than that quarterback becoming a third-string option that drifted off the radar once Purdy returned, the 49ers signed Darnold. Kyle Shanahan has spoken highly of the 2018 third overall pick, who signed a one-year deal worth $4.5MM early in free agency. And the 49ers will go into the season with the recent Panthers starter as Purdy’s top reserve.

The appeal of playing in a 49ers offense housing three All-Pro skill-position talents (George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey) helped bring Darnold back to California. The USC alum is still just 26, and while he has been given considerable run as a starter (55 games), the 49ers represent a better situation compared to the Jets and Panthers offenses he piloted. Shanahan has made it clear Purdy is the starter, and he debuted for the team against the Broncos on Saturday. It is certainly interesting that Darnold — the No. 3 overall pick in 2018 — will back up last year’s Mr. Irrelevant, but even if Purdy’s leash should be lengthy, the 49ers have more stability at QB2 in the sixth-year veteran.

For Lance, this marks another setback in a career full of them. Shanahan had thrown cold water on Lance’s prospects in the spring. Rather than this being a three-way competition for the starter gig, the 49ers did not give Lance much of a shot to regain his job as Purdy rehabbed. The North Dakota State alum quarterbacked much of the second half Saturday, and although he fared decently (12-for-18, 173 yards), it is possible that becomes audition tape for another team now.

Lance’s past three-plus years have doubled as one of the strangest career arcs for any top prospect in NFL history. After Lance dominated as a dual-threat talent for a Division I-FCS dynasty in 2019, as a redshirt freshman, the COVID-19 pandemic nixed FCS football in 2020. Lance was limited to one game as a sophomore, and he declared for the draft. That monster 2019 showing still made him a top prospect, like fellow ex-Bison Carson Wentz was five years prior, but Lance went to a 49ers team that may not have been all in on him. Rumors swirled about Shanahan preferring Mac Jones.

Lance, 23, has not come close to justifying the 49ers’ nine-spot trade-up, which cost them two first-round picks. He has attempted 102 passes as a pro, starting only four games and finishing just three. The Week 2 start against the Seahawks last season, leading to Lance’s ankle fracture, may be his last cameo as a 49er. After years of injury issues at QB, the 49ers are in better shape now. Purdy is no longer under any restrictions, and Darnold is healthy. That said, Darnold has missed games due to injury in each of his five seasons. This included a high ankle sprain last year, though he has certainly been healthier than Jimmy Garoppolo as a pro.

It should be expected the 49ers will attempt to move their third-stringer; May pickup Brandon Allen remains on San Francisco’s roster as well. Considering what the 49ers gave up to acquire Lance, moving him will cement a major draft blunder for an otherwise successful operation.

49ers Notes: Rivers, Williams, Darnold

Had the 49ers beaten the Eagles in the NFC championship game, there’s a good chance Philip Rivers would have been under center for the team during the Super Bowl. Kyle Shanahan confirmed as much today, saying the organization planned to sign the retired quarterback had they won that game (via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle).

Despite having not seen the field since the 2020 campaign, the 41-year-old quarterback was in the team’s contingency plan towards the end of the postseason. With Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance out of the picture, the 49ers rolled into the NFC championship game with Josh Johnson as the top backup to Brock Purdy. Both Purdy and Johnson were injured in that contest, and that would have forced the team into figuring out a fifth option at the position.

“(Rivers) was prepared to (play),” said Shanahan. “It’s stuff we talked about through the whole year. We would have seen how that was for the Super Bowl. That was the plan for most of the year.”

As Branch notes, Ben Roethlisberger admitted that the 49ers had reached out to him about joining the team, but the quarterback wanted to stay retired. Rivers, however, sounds like he was willing to return to the field for a chance at a Super Bowl ring.

When we last saw the long-time Chargers QB, he was manning the position for the Colts, guiding the team to an 11-5 record while tossing 24 touchdowns vs. 11 interceptions. Since calling it a career following that 2020 campaign, Rivers has served as a high school football coach in Fairhope, Alabama.

More notes out of San Francisco…

  • 49ers wideout and return man Ray-Ray McCloud broke his wrist at practice earlier this week, per Matt Barrows of The Athletic (on Twitter). The 26-year-old will undergo surgery and will likely miss the first two months of the season. McCloud joined the 49ers last year, and he finished the season averaging 23 yards per kick return and 10.8 yards per punt return. He also added 14 receptions and a touchdown on offense. As Barrows notes, Ronnie Bell, Willie Snead, and D’Shawn Jamison will be competing to take over the ST snaps with McCloud sidelined.
  • Trent Williams is entering his 13th NFL season, including his fourth with the 49ers. While 2023 will mark the lineman’s age-35 campaign, Williams doesn’t have any thoughts of hanging up his cleats. “No I don’t. Because I still feel the same,” Williams told ESPN’s Dan Graziano. “Every year, I come back and I’m literally on the edge of my seat until that first practice, because I just don’t know. I can train as hard as I want and feel good, but I don’t know. I’ve seen a lot of guys fall off, hit that wall, and I just don’t know when it’s coming. So I kind of go in scared in a sense, and as soon as I get out and move around I feel like, ‘All right. This year I’m good. I haven’t started slowing down yet.’ At the end of the day, I’m 35. I understand I don’t have another 10 years. But what’s the point of thinking about when it’s going to stop? It doesn’t help. I think once it’s time, it’s time, and you will know. But for me, just because I’m 35, I don’t think I should be thinking about retiring.”
  • Shanahan told reporters that the 49ers had interest in Sam Darnold during the early stages of their 2018 draft evaluation (via ESPN’s Nick Wagoner and Jeremy Fowler). The organization ended up trading for Garoppolo during the 2017 campaign, and Darnold went third-overall to the Jets in the following year’s draft. The 49ers were eager to bring the now-veteran QB on board this offseason, and the organization is convinced that Darnold was previously “harmed more by his circumstances than his ability.” Darnold was also eager to join an organization that could maximize his skills. “Being in a really good organization was a priority for me,” Darnold told reporters. “Being with really good coaches and really good personnel as well. Those were kind of the top things.”
  • The 49ers announced a number of front office changes, including the promotion of Jeff Diamond to Senior Manager, Salary Cap and Hayden Frey and Crowley Hanlon to area scouts. The organization also officially announced the addition of Frank Gore to the front office, with the former running back earning the title of Football Personnel Advisor.

Sam Darnold Discusses 49ers Signing

A starter for most of the past five seasons, Sam Darnold is now in position to play a backup role. Of course, that is contingent on Brock Purdy both returning to full strength and sustaining the surprising form he showed during his 49ers rookie season.

But Darnold may already be looming as the 49ers’ top option in case Purdy is not ready for Week 1. Despite joining a team with Trey Lance and a player who has already become one of the most notable Mr. Irrelevant picks ever, Darnold could play a key role for a team that has ventured to the past two NFC championship games. Darnold and Lance split offseason reps, but the elder passer is believed to have an early lead in the QB2 competition.

A move back to his home state and the chance to join a team with a proven offensive system appealed to the former No. 3 overall pick. Darnold, 26, is now a fixture in another offseason featuring several updates on San Francisco’s quarterback situation.

Obviously, the organization, man, this past year was my first time hitting free agency. So kind of the first time I had a choice, really, and to be able to just see what their organization is like, that offense is like,” Darnold said during a Pardon My Take appearance (via’s David Bonilla).

“… Guys are open. I mean, there’s a lot of guys open on dang near every play. It just seems like there’s a ton of answers [regarding his 49ers decision]. Great run game. I mean, whenever you can have a great run game as a quarterback, that’s always a comforting feeling.”

Within hours of the legal tampering period opening, the 49ers gave Darnold a one-year, $4.5MM deal ($3.5MM guaranteed). The Panthers had begun talks on a deal to re-sign the 2021 trade acquisition, but days after that report surfaced, the team moved to obtain the No. 1 overall pick from the Bears. Andy Dalton is now in place as Bryce Young‘s backup/bridge option.

Darnold had moments in Carolina, but injuries and the Matt Rhule-backed Baker Mayfield trade interrupted any momentum. The Jets were also unable to build a quality team around the USC alum, who started 38 games for the team from 2018-20. Darnold certainly fared better than the quarterback the Jets brought in to replace him (Zach Wilson), and the sixth-year passer will try to enhance his value on a proven team. Darnold did not play in the Kyle Shanahan system Mike LaFleur installed, as those two figures barely overlapped (in 2021) in the Big Apple. But that offense attracted the formerly coveted prospect to the Bay Area.

Darnold did not debut until Nov. 27 last season, missing time with a high ankle sprain and waiting behind Mayfield before retaking the Panthers’ reins. The team relied more on Christian McCaffrey replacement D’Onta Foreman during this stretch, with Darnold throwing more than one touchdown pass once in six starts. The team did go 4-2 behind Darnold, however. The 49ers, of course, feature better weaponry, with McCaffrey’s arrival giving them a rare four-All-Pro offense. George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Trent Williams remain in place, and although Purdy is still expected to be the triggerman, Darnold may end up seeing time — as either injury insurance or protection in case Purdy struggles to replicate his rookie-year effort — for the team this season.

49ers Still High On Trey Lance?

The 49ers’ quarterback depth chart (if fully healthy) will be much clearer when the regular season starts than it is now, as questions abound regarding the availability of starter Brock Purdy and the pecking order of Sam Darnold and Trey Lance. The latter in particular has become the focus of considerable speculation recently.

Lance has gone from clear-cut No. 1 to potential third-stringer over the course of less than one calendar year, with a report from last month indicating Darnold is believed to be the favorite for the backup role. Relegating the team’s 2021 third overall selection to emergency QB duties would of course be viewed as a signficant drop in confidence on the team’s part.

However, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports provided a more optimistic view of the situation, based in large part on the uncertainty San Francisco has under center. During an appearance on KNBR’s Murph & Mac program, he countered the idea that the 49ers are prepared to move past the North Dakota State alum in favor of Purdy, Darnold or another passer on a long-term basis.

“I don’t think the 49ers have enough information to tell you who is in line to be the backup,” Maiocco said (h/t David Bonilla of “I dispute the notion that the 49ers have soured on Trey Lance. I think… they like him now more than they ever have since they’ve had him with the 49ers, but they just don’t know how he would perform.”

Maiocco’s perspective will certainly be tested in the coming weeks when training camp and the preseason commences, but it is understandable. Lance is still under contract through at least 2024, and the fifth-year option could extend that one more season. The 23-year-old did not explore a change-of-scenery trade this offseason, and San Francisco was not active in seeking a potential trade partner. Further evaluating Lance – something which will of course only be possible if he is able to remain healthy for an extended stretch, something which has proven difficult at multiple levels of his football career – would be a logical course of action benefitting player and club.

Maiocco added that Darnold and Lance can be described as being on “equal footing” with respect to the upcoming QB2 competition. The former has had an underwhelming NFL career to date with the Jets and Panthers, and much remains to be seen regarding his abilities while surrounded by the 49ers’ impressive skill-position group. Regardless of how the summer unfolds, the team’s opinion of Lance will be worth monitoring closely.

Latest On 49ers’ Quarterback Situation

A year after spending the summer trying to trade Jimmy Garoppolo and then pivoting to a compromise that allowed the longtime starter to stay, the 49ers are late in another offseason headlined by an unusual quarterback situation.

Brock Purdy has resumed throwing, and’s Tom Pelissero notes (via Twitter) the Mr. Irrelevant-turned-starter remains on track to be ready for Week 1. Following his throwing program during the 49ers’ offseason sessions, Purdy will spend two weeks throwing in front of independent QB coach Will Hewlett and an orthopedic surgeon.

The 49ers’ party line continues to center around Purdy reprising his role as the team’s starter. The 2022 rookie revelation securing the job as expected would mark one of the more interesting conquests in modern NFL history, seeing as Purdy was chosen 262nd overall and will soon be participating in a training camp alongside two former No. 3 overall picks. Trey Lance and Sam Darnold spent OTAs and minicamp splitting the first-team reps in Purdy’s absence, but each obviously came into the NFL — Darnold in 2018, Lance in 2021 — in different realms as far as prospect pedigrees.

Going into camp, Darnold is believed to have the edge on Lance for San Francisco’s backup job, Adam Schefter of said during a recent Pat McAfee Show appearance (video link). The 49ers signed Darnold to a one-year, $4.5MM deal that came with $3.5MM guaranteed. The word of Darnold being ahead of Lance, who is tied to a $34.1MM fully guaranteed rookie contract, follows a report from earlier this offseason in which this was expectation.

In between the time Darnold signed and began his QB2 competition with Lance, the younger ex-No. 3 overall choice came up in trade rumors. The 49ers shot them down, and John Lynch spoke to Lance about the rumblings. It is worth wondering where the pre-draft rumors came from. While the 49ers have said they were not aiming to trade Lance, Schefter adds the QB did not produce a real trade market. It is not known what the 49ers would have considered an acceptable return for a player who has one season (2019) with extensive game work since high school, but Darnold staying ahead of Lance during camp would represent another setback for the ex-North Dakota State superstar.

The 49ers are planning to keep three quarterbacks, though only two figure to dress. Because of the Purdy and Josh Johnson injuries draining the drama from the NFC championship game, the NFL reintroduced the emergency QB rule. Teams can designate an emergency QB that is not part of an initial 48-man gameday unit. Plenty of reps remain, but as of now, Lance would project as San Francisco’s emergency passer.

Considering the 49ers tried to trade Garoppolo and give Lance the job without challenge last year, the latter being a real threat to enter a season as a third-stringer is a stunning development based on where his value stood as recently as last September. Eighth-year veteran Brandon Allen is also on San Francisco’s roster, signing shortly after the draft.

How a post-UCL surgery Purdy looks alongside Darnold and Lance once cleared will be another important component in the latest complex 49ers QB plot. For now, Purdy’s job is not believed to be under threat. That could conceivably change in camp, where Darnold might be the top competitor. Pressure will also be on Lance — who said he did not consider seeking an offseason trade — to stay afloat in a battle for the backup gig.

Brock Purdy Resumes Throwing, Remains Frontrunner To Start

Brock Purdy did end up beating early post-surgery projections. The second-year quarterback’s previously reported plan to throw this week is a go, and John Lynch said no setbacks emerged after the session.

The 49ers will still be, understandably, proceeding cautiously with last year’s third-stringer-turned-starter. But Lynch said during a Sirius XM Radio appearance the team is “incredibly encouraged” by Purdy’s early recovery stages.

[RELATED: Trey Lance Not Considering Trade Request]

Last year’s Mr. Irrelevant underwent UCL surgery March 10, following a slight delay due to swelling, and his recovery timetable could run up against the 49ers’ regular-season opener. Should Purdy continue to progress and make it back in time, Lynch said he remains the “leader in the clubhouse” to start. Lynch, as expected, praised Trey Lance — who has taken the bulk of the 49ers’ first-team reps during OTAs thus far — and labeled the Purdy-Lance-Sam Darnold setup an open competition.

Is it a flash in the pan or is it the real deal?” Lynch said, regarding Purdy (h/t The Athletic’s David Lombardi). “As we’ve gone back and studied it, he played at a high, high level. Not only played within the system, he made a lot of plays outside the system by extending plays. He showed tremendous playmaking ability. He showed tremendous ability to run the system efficiently, effectively, push the ball downfield — he just had an incredible first year.”

In not chasing an upgrade and letting Jimmy Garoppolo walk in free agency, the 49ers effectively showed that confidence in Purdy building on his stunning rookie-year form. The team did add Darnold but did so after Lance underwent a second ankle surgery. Darnold has also taken first-team reps during OTAs, per the San Jose Mercury News’ Cam Inman, and represents a wild card of sorts given the advantages the Kyle Shanahan-orchestrated offense has on the Jets and Panthers’ attacks Darnold helmed during his first five seasons.

It will certainly be interesting to see if Darnold’s talent level begins to show during Purdy’s recovery, as he and Lance are currently slated to back up a former No. 262 overall pick. Purdy’s form once he receives full clearance will obviously bring attention, given the healthy options the 49ers now have at quarterback. For now, however, the 2018 and ’21 No. 3 draftees are in line for reserve roles — though, it will be difficult to envision either being a third-stringer in the event the 49ers keep all three come September.

Latest On Trey Lance, 49ers QB Depth

After getting only four starts through his first two years in the NFL, 49ers quarterback Trey Lance is now eyeing a backup role heading into his third NFL season. Thanks to his presumed spot on the depth chart, a number of teams have checked on the availability of the former third-overall pick. However, despite the outside interest, Lance never thought of requesting a trade out of San Francisco.

“No, not at all,” Lance told reporters yesterday (via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle). “I knew where I wanted to be. I just want an opportunity to compete. I love it here. I love the coaching staff. … Love the quarterback room, love the guys in the locker room. This is absolutely where I want to be.”

Injuries have limited Lance’s progress through his first two NFL seasons. He spent most of his rookie season as the backup to Jimmy Garoppolo, and after heading into the 2022 campaign as the clear starter, he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2. Since then, 2022 Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy took the job and ran with it, guiding the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game.

The team made it clear that they’ll have Purdy atop the QB depth chart when they start the regular season, and the organization also brought in some veteran depth in Sam Darnold. Despite the fact that he might not even be the 49ers’ second option at the position, Lance admitted that he’s actually enjoying playing football for the first time in a while.

“I really feel like I’m having fun playing football again,” Lance said. “It’s hard those first years, my first year and especially last year, I thought I’d be able to get close to that point of not having to be so stressed and worried and have a better understanding of offense and defense. And I finally feel like I’m able to just have fun and enjoy it again.

“Obviously, there are ups and downs. And there is stress and anxiety that comes with playing the position and playing football. But this is the best I’ve felt, for sure.”

Even with the added depth at the position, Lance isn’t doomed in San Francisco. Purdy is still recovering from UCL surgery, although Kyle Shanahan told reporters that the QB should be throwing by next week (per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on Twitter). It sounds like Purdy is a bit ahead of schedule, which is good news when it comes to his Week 1 availability. However, even a small setback could delay Purdy’s regular season debut, opening the door for a starting gig.

Per Rapoport, Lance has been taking the technical “first-team reps” at quarterback this week. However, Shanahan was quick to caution that this doesn’t mean a whole lot; Lance was playing with no offensive line and throwing to second- and third-string receivers. Ultimately, Rapoport believes there will be a real battle between Lance and Darnold for that QB2 (and potential QB1) role.

49ers Expect Brock Purdy To Resume Throwing Next Week

Swelling caused a delay in Brock Purdy‘s UCL recovery timetable, pushing his surgery back to mid-March. That has introduced uncertainty regarding Purdy’s Week 1 readiness, but the 49ers quarterback may be a bit ahead of schedule in his post-surgery path.

The 49ers expect their anticipated starter being ready to begin throwing next week, Kyle Shanahan said Tuesday. This does not necessarily mean Purdy will be ready by Week 1, as Shanahan previously expressed doubt about that. But the seventh-year 49ers HC said the team does not have any reason — as of now — to believe Purdy will not be in uniform when the regular season begins (Twitter links via’s Taylor Bisciotti and ESPN’s Nick Wagoner). With the second-year passer previously not expected to begin throwing until June, this represents an early win for the 49ers.

This marks the second straight offseason in which a 49ers quarterback needed extensive rehab time before he could return to action. Jimmy Garoppolo spent months rehabbing a March 2022 shoulder surgery, throwing off a potential trade. Had Garoppolo not undergone that surgery, the 49ers likely would have traded their longtime starter. Trey Lance‘s preseason form and subsequent injury certainly made it wise the 49ers hung onto Garoppolo, but the injury-prone veteran’s foot fracture introduced Purdy to the NFL masses. Purdy’s late-season showing has effectively displaced Lance, leaving the former No. 3 overall pick in limbo. The 49ers denied they were shopping Lance ahead of the draft.

Shanahan has said Purdy’s recovery period opens the door for Lance to gain ground, but Sam Darnold is now in place as a potential stopgap starter. It will be interesting to see how Darnold and Lance perform this summer, as Purdy ramps up. Both No. 3 picks entered the league as far superior prospects compared to Purdy, making the latter’s form worth monitoring once he dons shoulder pads again.

Quarterback uncertainty has overshadowed just about every Shanahan-era San Francisco offseason. The team passed on Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in 2017, eyeing a potential Kirk Cousins reunion in 2018. The Garoppolo trade and his 2018 extension created a smooth run-up to the ’18 season, but the ex-Patriot’s September ACL tear began a spree of injuries. Garoppolo recovered on time and piloted the 49ers to a Super Bowl LIV berth in 2019, but Tom Brady rumors emerged in 2020. Garoppolo then saw an ankle injury — amid an avalanche of maladies for the then-defending NFC champs — cut his 2020 slate short. The 49ers traded two future first-rounders for Lance, whose 2022 ascent to the starting role — after a few 2021 Garoppolo injuries — became cloudy after two ankle surgeries. Garoppolo has since signed a three-year, $72.75MM Raiders deal.

Lance has worked with QB coach Jeff Christensen this offseason, via The Athletic’s Matt Barrows, which as apparently led to an improved throwing motion (subscription required). Per Christensen, Lance has thrown tighter spirals this offseason. Lance’s 2021 finger injury is believed to have lingered into 2022, but the one-year North Dakota State starter is now over that issue. Arm fatigue also plagued Lance in previous seasons, per Barrows, who adds Lance and Darnold are expected to share first-team reps this offseason.

At this point, Darnold would be a safer bet than Lance. But all three QBs throwing this summer could make this the most interesting offseason at the position during Shanahan’s tenure. That is a high bar to clear.

Latest On 49ers’ QB Situation

The 49ers view Brock Purdy as their optimal starter — when he’s healthy. As it will be a while before that is the case, the team has a backup plan. That might end up needing to carry over into the regular season.

Hopes Purdy can return in time for training camp may not be realistic. After John Lynch presented a more optimistic Purdy outlook, Kyle Shanahan brought up the initial timetable — a six-month rehab period — and added that the breakthrough passer may not be fully ready to go until October.

I think it can go anywhere from six months to eight months, so it’s all open like that,” Shanahan said, via’s David Bonilla. I think we’ll have a better idea … they say at three months out of surgery, they have a better idea whether it’s going to be six months or eight months. So I don’t know.

It might be Week 1. I think I’m hearing, at the latest, Week 4. But that’s just all estimations, and we’ll see what happens.”

It is premature to suggest Purdy will not be ready in time to start the season, but this is the first time a 49ers official has said last year’s Mr. Irrelevant might not be ready to play until potentially October. That leaves the door open for Trey Lance, but while the third-year passer is expected to be ready for OTAs, Ian Rapoport of notes (video link) Lance’s career arc points to Sam Darnold being the likely 49ers Week 1 starter.

A scenario in which Darnold opens the season as San Francisco’s starter would both represent another setback for Lance and open the door to more questions regarding this job, given Darnold’s draft pedigree (No. 3 overall in 2018) and experience advantage on Purdy. If Darnold is taking the snaps for the 49ers to start the season, will Lance be on the roster?

Both Shanahan and 49ers CEO Jed York defended the Lance maneuver — a trade-up that cost the 49ers their 2022 and ’23 first-rounders — this week, and the seventh-year HC said he wants to have Lance, Purdy and Darnold on the 53-man roster. The 49ers ran into historic injury trouble at quarterback last season, with Lance’s fractured ankle — which required two surgeries — starting that run of setbacks. As a result, Shanahan expects Lance to have a more difficult road to win this year’s starting job — after the team essentially handed it to him in 2022.

I think it’s going to be harder for him, too,” Shanahan said of Lance moving back to first-string duty after missing 15 games last season. “I mean, Brock played in eight games, and Trey had that job going into last season. And if he would have played eight games like that, no one else would have been able to come in and beat him out. But with Brock being hurt, it does open [things] up, and it does give him a chance.”

Quarterback injury issues overshadowed four of the past five 49ers seasons, and Jimmy Garoppolo trade rumors hovered over the 2022 offseason. But the next several months present ingredients, especially with Darnold now in the mix, for the Shanahan-era Niners’ most complicated stretch at the position.