This setup stands to both give Lance extensive offseason reps, which will be useful for a uniquely unseasoned prospect, and thin out the QB depth for a team that saw both its active-roster passers go down during the NFC championship game. John Lynch said (via the San Jose Mercury News’ Cam Inman, on Twitter) the 49ers “may have to look into the veteran quarterback market” as a protection measure.
Lynch was more diplomatic than Shanahan regarding another Garoppolo deal. After the seventh-year 49ers HC said he could not foresee any scenario in which the veteran QB returned, Lynch said the relationship has “probably run its course.” Garoppolo will be expected to price himself out of San Francisco’s range. The team had planned to carry the Purdy and Lance rookie deals into the offseason, allowing for big spending elsewhere. That still looks to be the blueprint here, but a host of midlevel or backup-type veterans will be available for the contending team. It depends on what role the 49ers want to fill.
Lance is expected to be ready for OTAs. While Purdy is viewed as the likely starter, he is facing a lengthy rehab — one that could still include Tommy John surgery. That reconstructive procedure would sideline him to start the season. As of now, the 49ers’ goal remains for Purdy to be back in time for Week 1. Lance said during a recent appearance on the Rich Eisen Show he just wants a chance to compete (video link). The North Dakota State alum will have an interesting opportunity ahead, as the 49ers were preparing to go with him last year before his ankle setback. It will be interesting to see if the unpolished prospect can mount a serious challenge to Purdy thanks to a spring an summer of first-team reps.
Lynch responded to question pertaining to interest in Tom Bradyby indicating the retired passer sent him a thumbs-up emoji when the GM texted him congrats on his legendary career. Unlike last year, Brady will be a free agent. The 49ers have been linked to the Bay Area native during a few offseasons under Lynch. Considering Brady was connected to wanting to play for his hometown team during his short retirement last year — a scenario the Buccaneers did not entertain — a free agency pact figures to come up. But Brady would not qualify as a Lance mentor; he would be stepping in to start. That would represent a strange scenario for Purdy.
But the 49ers still have one of the NFL’s best rosters. If Purdy is viewed as needing regular-season time to recover, Lance will need to be readier compared to what he showed in 2021 or ’22. If the 49ers do not view the former No. 3 overall pick as progressing this offseason, rumblings of a second Brady unretirement would be difficult to suppress.
If the 49ers are familiar with one thing, it’s injured quarterbacks. When season starter Trey Lance went down with a season-ending ankle injury only two games into the season, San Francisco reverted back to Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo would start the next 10 games before suffering a foot injury that would require season-ending surgery. This led the team to start rookie Brock Purdy, the last pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. Purdy responded to being forced into the spotlight with five straight wins in his starts to end the season. He would then help the 49ers win their first two playoff games before ultimately falling to the Eagles in the NFC Championship after suffering an elbow injury that is expected to take six months to recover.
With the emergence of Purdy this season, San Francisco seems renewed in their desires to move Garoppolo, something they attempted to no avail last offseason. Even with Garoppolo out of the picture, what happens when both Lance and Purdy return to full health? That question was posed to Matt Barrows of The Athletic this week in a Q&A with 49ers fans.
Barrows seems to believe that there will be no controversy when both players are healthy. Purdy presumably won’t be healthy until maybe the start of training camp. Until then, Lance will perform as the team’s lead quarterback in the spring. Once Purdy is back in the picture, though, Barrows asserts that he will be the 49ers’ first-team quarterback. Purdy showed an ability to operate within the 49ers offense and play winning football. Lance, on the other hand, hasn’t been able to prove that he can stay on the football field, unfortunately. Dating back to his final collegiate season at North Dakota State, in the past three years, out of a possible 44 games, Lance has appeared in nine.
Throughout the spring, Lance will be under center earning some much needed snaps with the 49ers offense. Once Purdy is healthy, Barrows is under the impression that he will man the starting quarterback position over Lance.
Here are a few other rumors from around the NFC West, starting with a couple of coaching changes:
After 11 years coaching in the NFL and four years in Arizona, former Cardinals outside linebackers coach Charlie Bullen will be leaving the league to become the outside linebackers coach/pass rush coordinator at the University of Illinois, according to the school’s official Twitter account. Bullen has experience in the Big Ten as a University of Iowa alumnus and will be returning to the state in which he grew up.
The Rams are looking to replace offensive line coach Kevin Carberry, whom they dismissed alongside several other coaching assistants following the 2022 season. One candidate they will be considering is former Jets offensive line coachJohn Benton, as reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Benton has seen a rough 12 months, being arrested and charged with DUI in March 2022 and being dismissed by head coach Robert Saleh after his second year with the team. Benton still provides plenty of experience having served in the position for five franchises, including the Rams back when they resided in St. Louis. If he were hired to coach in Los Angeles, he would be reunited with offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who joined Sean McVay‘s staff a little over a week ago.
Jimmy Garoppolo went from a player the 49ers openly insisted was on the trade block to one who became the team’s primary starter this season. Just before Garoppolo’s latest injury, the 49ers had moved to a point they were ready to discuss another contract with the veteran passer.
Brock Purdy‘s emergence changed the team’s plans. Despite Purdy suffering a torn UCL that is expected to sideline him for at least six months, Kyle Shanahan said he does not expect Garoppolo back. The seventh-year 49ers coach said he does not see “any scenario” in which Garoppolo is part of next year’s team, via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch (on Twitter).
Garoppolo is set for free agency in March, but the other two 49ers quarterbacks are dealing with injuries at present. Purdy will almost certainly miss the team’s offseason program, and Trey Lance underwent two surgeries to repair a broken and dislocated ankle. Lance, however, said he expects to be 100% in time for OTAs, Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com notes (video link).
With Purdy out of commission for a while and Lance coming back from a major injury, the 49ers could be in need of offseason QB help. But Shanahan does not expect the team to pursue any veterans. Both Lance and Purdy are starter-level options, Shanahan added (via Branch), and it appears the 49ers will go forward with their rookie-contract duo. Prior to Purdy’s elbow injury, he had performed at a level that was expected to give him the edge for the 2023 starting job going into training camp. Purdy’s elbow trouble reopens the door wider for Lance, who began this season as San Francisco’s starter.
Purdy has not determined a course of action yet, but GM John Lynch said (via Wagoner) the expectation is an internal brace surgery will be required. This procedure differs from Tommy John surgery, and it would be expected to sideline the seventh-round pick for around six months. Purdy would be on track to throw for a few months leading up to receiving clearance to return to action, but Sunday’s injury will certainly reshape his offseason.
Garoppolo stands to have at least one more option in free agency, as no team will be signing Tom Brady this offseason. Garoppolo’s higher-profile ex-teammate announced his retirement Wednesday, both taking him out of the equation for the 49ers — though, Shanahan did not make it sound like they would have been interested — and opening an additional chair for Garoppolo. The six-year 49ers passer was aiming to return from his foot fracture by Super Bowl LVII. Garoppolo, 31, has suffered a host of major injuries during his 49ers tenure, but as of now, he is expected to be healthy going into free agency.
The injuries — an ACL tear (2018), a high ankle sprain (2020), his shoulder procedure (2022) and now this Jones fracture — stand to affect his market. But Garoppolo will undoubtedly be linked to multiple teams ahead of free agency — the Jets are a team looking into him — as his younger 49er teammates vie for the starting job.
When the prospect of Jimmy Garoppolo‘s foot injury not being a season-ending setback surfaced, it looked like the 49ers’ Super Bowl hopes had new life. Several weeks since San Francisco’s former starter went down, he is still aiming to return. Should that happen, it will bolster the 49ers’ depth chart. But the team would change Garoppolo’s role if he can come back.
Garoppolo’s continued push to return for potentially the NFC championship game or Super Bowl LVII — should the team advance to either of those rounds — would not mean he regains his starting job. The 49ers are planning to stick with Brock Purdy as their starter, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports notes (video link).
Garoppolo, 31, is finishing up one of the more complicated years in the history of the quarterback position. A March 2022 shoulder surgery took him from surefire trade candidate to a freefalling stock that did not end up generating much interest by the time training camp rolled around. The 49ers, who had openly discussed plans to trade Garoppolo to greenlight the Trey Lance era, approached their longtime starter about a restructure to stay on as Lance insurance. That agreement became vital, as Lance went down with a season-ending injury in Week 2. After triggering some of his playing time-based incentives, Garoppolo sustained another major injury and has seen a seventh-round rookie bypass him.
Prior to the Dec. 4 injury, the 49ers were interested in another Garoppolo contract. But his latest injury changed San Francisco’s QB trajectory. Purdy has led the team to seven straight wins, counting his early-game relief appearance against the Dolphins, and has thrown 16 touchdown passes compared to four interceptions since taking over. Garoppolo also carries a 16-4 TD-INT ratio, though it came in 11 games.
The 49ers have won 11 straight — their longest win streak since they won 18 in a row between the 1989-90 seasons. Not only has Purdy commandeered the 49ers’ starting job for this season, he may well be set to pass Lance once the former No. 3 overall pick re-enters the equation.
This year’s Mr. Irrelevant should enter San Francisco’s 2023 training camp as the team’s starter, with The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami writing this is the assumed reality the 49ers have backed into thanks to the Iowa State product’s stunning late-season play (subscription required). Entering the NFL as a historically unusual prospect, Lance has only played more than two games in a season in one year (a dominant 2019 at North Dakota State) since graduating high school in 2018. A third overall selection being a backup going into Year 3 is not exactly an ideal plan, but Purdy has looked much readier to take over than Lance did during his stints under center in 2021 and ’22. Lance has since undergone a second surgery on his broken ankle.
For this season, Garoppolo returning would provide insurance — shaky as it may be, given his injury history — against a Purdy injury or his early surge fizzling. Even though Kyle Shanahan said initially Garoppolo coming back was a long-odds scenario, the prospect is still in play weeks later. The 49ers never put Garoppolo on IR. The team has Josh Johnson, the NFL’s journeyman of the moment who rejoined the team after spending most of the season on the Broncos’ practice squad, as the only healthy passer in place behind Purdy.
Garoppolo would obviously present a massive QB2 upgrade for the 49ers this season. Come March, however, it should be expected the nine-year veteran will hit the market and sign to start elsewhere.
The 49ers have won eight straight games entering Week 17, as their quarterback-related injury issues have not stopped the 2022 season from being a successful one. That has drawn attention away from their Week 1 starter, but a notable update on his status has emerged.
Trey Lanceunderwent a second surgery on his right ankle earlier this week, as detailed by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. The procedure was successful, fortunately, and the 22-year-old remains on track to continue his rehab. Lance is therefore still expected to be recovered in time for individual and team workouts in the spring.
A team statement issued one day after the surgery took place reads in part, “The second procedure was performed to remove hardware that was inserted during the initial surgery in September. Due to the location of the fracture, the required hardware placement was close to a tendon in Lance’s ankle. During the rehab process, their close proximity proved to cause irritation in his ankle. After consulting with multiple experts, the decision was made to have the hardware removed to prevent future issues in the ankle.”
Lance went down in the second game of the 2022 season, the first in which he was named San Francisco’s starter. One day after suffering the injury, he had the first operation done to begin the the recovery process. The ailment marked a hugely disappointing end to the campaign for last year’s third overall pick, and threatened to derail the 49ers’ season given their work spent in the months prior tailoring the offense to his skillset. Veteran Jimmy Garoppolosteadied the ship, however, before suffering his own season-ending injury in Week 13.
That has left rookie Brock Purdyin place for the No. 1 role, something which has yet to cause an issue for San Francisco’s offense. Purdy has won each of his three starts, and the team ranks eighth in the league and 10th in scoring over the course of the year. Given their two consecutive smooth transitions to new signal-callers, some around the league have predicted that Lance could be on his way out of the Bay Area this offseason via a trade, one which would of course represent a surprising end to his tenure with the team.
Such a move would still be unlikely even if Purdy continues to have success down the stretch and into the postseason, with Lance being under contract through at least 2024 on his rookie pact. In the meantime, the latter will look to make a full recovery on the path to reclaiming (or at least competing for) his starting role in the summer.
September 24th, 2022 at 8:30pm CST by Sam Robinson
The Kyle Shanahan–John Lynch regime has seen some twists and turns alter its quarterback plans. Although quarterback consistency has eluded this duo for much of its six-season run in San Francisco, the plan to circle back toJimmy Garoppolo will keep the 49ers in place as an NFC contender.
Shanahan and Lynch went from passing on QB answer in their first draft — one that saw the 49ers trade down from No. 2 to No. 3 and pass on Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson (and Mitch Trubisky, who went second overall) for since-departed defensive lineman Solomon Thomas — before seeing a long-term starter fall into their laps at that year’s trade deadline. That October 2017 trade, which cost the 49ers a second-round pick (No. 43 overall), is still paying dividends five years later.
The Garoppolo era appears near an end, but the 49ers are suddenly all-in again on a player who spent the offseason, training camp and preseason away from the team. Trey Lance‘s season-ending ankle injury dealt an inexperienced prospect a tough blow, but the Week 2 setback — albeit awkwardly — may have bolstered one of the NFL’s top rosters. Garoppolo’s re-emergence figures to stabilize the 49ers, providing them perhaps a considerably elevated floor. (An early-season Lance benching was already being rumored.) Instances in which a contending team loses a QB1 and is viewed as better for it are not exactly common throughout NFL history; this could be one of the few.
This reality nearly fell apart months ago, as the 49ers came close to trading Garoppolo before his value-hijacking March shoulder surgery. The Browns, Rams and Seahawks later loomed as a destinations in the event the 49ers cut him — this saga’s expected endgame in its final weeks. Although the 49ers have said the plan all along was to trade their four-plus-year starter, he always loomed as unusual Lance insurance. The 49ers drafted one of the most atypical quarterback prospects in league history last year, and the Division I-FCS product’s inexperience made going into the season without Garoppolo a tremendous risk. Yet, that appeared the plan. Lynch’s suggestion to approach Garoppolo with a pay-cut proposal ended up preventing one of the NFC favorites from seeing Lance’s injury leave them with an untenable in-house starter option.
While Garoppolo gives Shanahan a safer option to lead a three-All-Pro offense, the 49ers are in one of the weirder places at quarterback in recent memory. Their No. 3 overall pick will have finished his first two seasons with four starts and 102 pass attempts. Those numbers are not unprecedented by any means, but this is obviously a different situation compared to the likes of Jordan Love or busts Johnny Manziel (eight starts through two seasons) and Paxton Lynch (four). Lance, who could be kept through 2025 via the fifth-year option, remains firmly in San Francisco’s plans (indeed, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that the Niners remain fully committed to Lance, who has a four- to six-month recovery timeline). But this rehab year will nix another shot at in-game development. These chances have continually been taken away from the North Dakota State alum.
Entering 2023, Lance will have just season of regular starter work on his post-high school resume. After redshirting in 2018, Lance tore up the FCS level (albeit with that tier’s best program) with 28 touchdown passes and no interceptions and led the Bison to another national championship. The COVID-19 pandemic led most of college football, save for Division I-FBS, to cancel its 2020 seasons (for the fall, at least). After a one-game 2020, Lance declared for the draft. Despite a highlight reel consisting entirely of redshirt-freshman plays, the dual-threat talent managed to follow fellow Bison standout Carson Wentz by becoming a top-three draftee. But Lance suffered a finger injury in 2021, limiting him during a season in which he was not viewed as a Garoppolo threat.
A sought-after QB prospect having thrown 420 passes in five seasons since high school is historically unusual territory for a player still expected to be a long-term NFL starter. Lance’s misfortune comes after an inconsistent preseason, one that helped push the 49ers to solidify a Garoppolo recommitment. A rocky Week 1 start on a waterlogged Soldier Field enhanced the mystery surrounding Lance’s status. A high ceiling may remain, but after four years away from full-time duty, can the 49ers be sure? San Francisco is also now veering toward Green Bay-Love territory; the 49ers will have gotten next to nothing from a first-round QB contract through two years. Though, Garoppolo’s restructure gives the team some flexibility the Packers lack thanks to Aaron Rodgers‘ record-setting $50.3MM-per-year extension.
Fielding an NFC championship-qualifying team with scant contributions from a No. 3 overall pick highlights the 49ers’ roster strength. Last year’s success and this year’s largely Lance-less operation also magnify the franchise’s decision to trade two future first-round picks to move up nine spots for such an unproven commodity. The 49ers have won in spite of their 2021 Lance- (or Mac Jones?)-motivated decision. It is understandable the 49ers dealt into future draft arsenals to land a quarterback upgrade, as Garoppolo (12th- and 13th-place QBR figures in 2019 and ’21, respectively) maxes out as an above-average option. But the team made a luxury pick with a Super Bowl-caliber roster in place.
Lance’s injury also thrusts Garoppolo’s health history back to the forefront. In addition to the shoulder malady sidetracked his trade market, the ninth-year vet played through calf and thumb issues in 2021, went down with a season-ending ankle problem in 2020 and missed most of the ’18 season due to an ACL tear. The 49ers having 2022 Mr. IrrelevantBrock Purdyand practice squad journeyman Kurt Benkert as Garoppolo’s only backups suddenly becomes a concern. Shanahan’s intermittent success with a rookie UDFA (Nick Mullens) notwithstanding, the team turning back to the trade market — this time to supplement Garoppolo — would make sense.
A backup with multiple years of control could be a priority as well. Garoppolo’s 2018 extension expires in March. The 49ers venturing to two NFC title games in three seasons without a high-end quarterback represents an achievement when considering the position’s rise in stature as rule changes have pushed most teams to build around the passing game. The quarterback that drew scrutiny for holding his team back being viewed as a rejuvenation tool is ironic, but the 49ers did well to forge this compromise. It could go down as a seminal compromise.
But little is settled for the team beyond 2022. After Garoppolo makes another push at a Super Bowl championship, his restructure’s no-franchise tag clause would stand to lead him to free agent market unlikely to include many attractive options (Lamar Jackson is not hitting the market, and Year 23 might actually be it for Brady). At that point, the paused Lance era will return to the 49ers’ front burner. Lance’s uncertain trajectory will be appropriate for a team that has seen its QB situation produce a highly unpredictable contender during the Shanahan-Lynch period.
September 21st, 2022 at 2:37pm CST by Sam Robinson
Both Elijah Mitchell and Tyrion Davis-Price are now on the mend for the 49ers. Davis-Price’s ankle sprain is expected to keep him out for multiple games, while Mitchell is early in what is viewed as a two-month recovery timetable from an MCL sprain. Veteran backs are en route.
After the 49ers promoted Marlon Mack to their active roster, they replaced him on the practice squad with Tevin Coleman. Weeks after the Jets released Coleman, the seven-year veteran worked out for his former team last week. This marks a return Bay Area trip for Coleman, who was with the 49ers from 2019-20.
The 49ers officially placed Trey Lance on IR as well. Lance underwent surgery to repair a broken ankle. San Francisco’s starter is out for the season and staring at a four- to six-month recovery timetable. This led Jimmy Garoppolo back to the top of the depth chart and Kurt Benkertonto the 49ers’ P-squad. This year’s Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy, is currently Garoppolo’s backup.
This will be yet another Shanahan-Coleman reunion. The sixth-year 49ers head coach was Atlanta’s offensive coordinator during Coleman’s first two NFL seasons, and once the former third-round pick hit the market in 2019, the 49ers added him on a two-year deal. Coleman, 29, now represents insurance against another 49ers backfield injury.
Prior to unleashing Raheem Mostert in 2019, the 49ers had Coleman pegged as their starter. Even as Mostert morphed from special-teamer to first-stringer, Coleman played a steady role for the 49ers’ Super Bowl LIV-qualifying team. He totaled 724 scrimmage yards and seven touchdowns in 2019 and surpassed 100 on the ground in San Francisco’s divisional-round win over Minnesota. A shoulder injury slowed him for the rest of those playoffs, and a knee injury in Week 2 of the 2020 season led to a lengthy absence and a vastly reduced role down the stretch that year.
Last season, Coleman played in 11 Jets games — in ex-49ers OC Mike LaFleur‘s offense — and averaged 4.2 yards per carry (84 totes, 356 yards). The Jets brought him back on a one-year, $1.5MM deal, but the team soon drafted Breece Hall in the second round and went with younger backs after training camp. The 49ers have ex-Coleman backup Jeff Wilson installed as their current starter, with Mack and rookie UDFA Jordan Mason as backups.
September 19th, 2022 at 2:47pm CST by Adam La Rose
2:47pm: In a statement, the team confirmed that the procedure was successful in repairing a “fibula fracture and ligament disruption.” The 49ers are confident that Lance will be able to make a full recovery in time for the start of the 2023 season.
1:54pm: One day after his season came to an abrupt end, Trey Lanceis beginning the recovery process which will allow him to get back on the field. The 49ers quarterback is undergoing surgery to repair his fractured and dislocated ankle today, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweets.
Lance was carted off the field during yesterday’s game against the Seahawks. The injury was immediately thought to be serious, and it was confirmed not long after that season-ending surgery would be required. Pelissero notes that the 22-year-old did not suffer a compound fracture, but that provides little in the way of consolation considering the blow this injury represents to his career arc and San Francisco’s QB plans.
2022 was meant to mark the beginning of Lance’s tenure as the undisputed starter, something which was signalled last April when the 49ers traded up to draft him third overall. Veteran Jimmy Garoppolohelped guide the team to the NFC title game last year, but was thought to be a key figure in the offseason’s quarterback market. A shoulder injury left San Francisco with few suitors outside of their division, however.
Ultimately, he stayed in San Francisco on a deal which greatly reduced his base salary but includes plenty of incentives. The fact that he has now once again become the No. 1 gives the 30-year-old significant earning potential. As detailed by ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter), Garoppolo could make $5.6MM based on playing time and victories, in addition to his $6.5MM base salary, which is fully guaranteed.
A repeat of last year’s success (along with that of the 2019 campaign, in which the 49ers went to the Super Bowl) cannot be ruled out, given Garoppolo’s track record. Still, he is scheduled to hit free agency this spring, while the 49ers will no doubt keep an eye on the recovery process of their presumed future franchise signal-caller.
5:51pm: It seems the 49ers will have to face the worst-case scenario of today’s injury as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Lance’s ankle injury “is expected to require surgery that likely will end his season.”
San Francisco is fortunate, in the short term, that they held on to Garoppolo who will likely step in to quarterback the 49ers for the remainder of the season. There were whispers around the league that a trade could still be in the books as teams like the Cowboys saw significant blows to the quarterback position.
In the long-term, San Francisco has to have some concerns about the development of its young investment at quarterback. It’s certainly not Lance’s fault, but, if the rumor of his season ending are true, Lance will have gone three years in the NFL without playing any significant, consistent time at quarterback. In a sport that requires constant practice and refinement of skill, this is a disastrous start to what should be a promising career for Lance.
3:36pm: Today marked a significant point in Trey Lance‘s young NFL career. Instead of a bounce-back performance, however, it has resulted in the 49ers quarterback being carted off the field with a leg injury, as the team confirmed.
Lance will be out for the remainder of the game, per a club announcement. He had an air cast on his right leg before being taken of the field to the locker room. As a result of the injury, Jimmy Garoppolohas taken over behind center for San Francisco.
Lance spent the entire offseason knowing he would take over as the 49ers’ franchise signal-caller. The team traded up to select him third overall in the 2021 draft, so it came as little surprise that they turned their attention to the 22-year-old. Expectations were understandably high, but his limited action in college and as a rookie backing up Garoppolo led to plenty of question marks entering the campaign.
The North Dakota State product did little to quell doubts about his ability to operate as a high-end starter last week. In an upset loss to the Bears, Lance completed just 13-of-28 passes for 164 yards and an interception, adding 54 yards on 13 rushing attempts. Conditions played a major part in each teams’ offensive struggles, of course, but much was thought to be riding on Lance’s performance today against the Seahawks.
It was reported earlier this week that head coach Kyle Shanahan could turn to Garoppolo as early as the team’s next game against the Broncos in the event Lance struggled. Now, he has done so out of sheer necessity. Garoppolo was the source of trade speculation all summer long, but stayed in the Bay Area via a restructured contract. Depending on the length of Lance’s absence, the veteran could once again carry the load for an extended period.
In the immediate future, Garoppolo faces the task of guiding a 49ers offense which, for the second straight contest, does not include All-Pro tight end George Kittle against the Seahawks. Seattle pulled off an upset win over Denver last week, but San Francisco currently leads 13-0. Big-picture implications loom large for the team at the QB position, however.
September 16th, 2022 at 1:55pm CST by Sam Robinson
Going into just his second game as a full-time 49ers starter, Trey Lance is not in a situation that compares to the ones most high-level quarterback prospects have encountered upon entering the NFL. Jimmy Garoppolo‘s restructured deal to stay with the team has undoubtedly shortened Lance’s leash, creating what could be unusually high Week 2 stakes for a first-year starter.
Heavy favorites for a second straight week, the 49ers hoped their schedule’s first two games — against a rebuilding Bears team and a Seahawks squad that moved on from a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback this offseason — would represent a nice onramp of sorts for Lance, Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post notes. After a waterlogged mess of a season opener, the 49ers are 0-1. And a pivot to Garoppolo could loom if a second straight shaky Lance start happens.
A 49ers loss to the Seahawks has led some who have worked with Kyle Shanahan to expect he would bench Lance before a Week 3 game in Denver, La Canfora adds. This would be one of the most unusual developments in recent NFL history, given what the 49ers gave up to draft Lance third overall. But Lance entered the league as an atypical prospect. And he ended up with a team with a Super Bowl-caliber roster, a setup that obviously differs from most teams that draft a quarterback at No. 3.
The 49ers threw their support behind Lance this offseason, spending months trying to unload Garoppolo. When nothing materialized by training camp, Shanahan approached his former starter about a reworked contract that kept him in San Francisco as Lance’s backup. Despite the 49ers assuring Lance this did not affect his status, some close to the situation — along with others around the NFL — did not see the Garoppolo reunion that way. Pushback against Lance having a short leash has emerged, but it is hard to envision the 49ers showing the patience most teams would with a top-three QB draftee considering their status as one of the NFC favorites.
Lance has barely thrown 400 regular-season passes since his high school graduation, seeing the COVID-19 pandemic wipe out his sophomore season at Division I-FCS North Dakota State. Shortly after the pandemic nixed the 2020 FCS fall season, the dual-threat QB parlayed his dominant freshman slate into following Carson Wentz as a top-three draftee from the FCS level’s premier program. A finger injury hindered Lance as a rookie, leading to him not threatening Garoppolo’s job security despite the veteran starter battling a slew of ailments himself. An inconsistent Lance performance in the 49ers’ preseason finale provided the final push for the 49ers to reach a revised contract agreement with Garoppolo, per La Canfora.
While Garoppolo re-emerging as San Francisco’s starter early this season would represent an extraordinarily quick hook for a player in whom the team invested so much (2022 and ’23 future first-rounders and a 2022 third), the 49ers have assembled one of the NFC’s best rosters. Garoppolo does not offer a high ceiling, but his floor is probably above Lance’s at this point. Garoppolo’s deal expires at season’s end, which could effectively lead to a second redshirt season for Lance — in the event a benching does occur. But Garoppolo’s injury past points to Lance being needed as well.
Lance’s rookie deal runs through 2024, with a fifth-year option in place to extend it to 2025. The 49ers deciding they need a more experienced option under center soon would not prevent them from going back to Lance next year, but it would make for a rather unusual early-career arc and a potentially strained relationship. Lance can quiet benching speculation with a bounce-back performance Sunday, but this storyline probably will not move to the back burner anytime soon.