Trey Lance

49ers Were Concerned Patriots Would Jump Them To Select Mac Jones

The 49ers became the talk of the pre-draft portion of the offseason when they engineered a trade up to the No. 3 overall pick. It was immediately clear that San Francisco was going to draft a QB with that selection, and for a time, the rumor was that the club had its eye on Alabama passer Mac Jones. Ultimately, of course, the team drafted North Dakota State signal-caller Trey Lance.

However, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports, one of the reasons the Niners made the deal was because they believed the Patriots had identified Jones as their quarterback of the future and wanted to beat New England to the punch. That suggests that the 49ers did initially favor Jones — who was seen as an ideal fit for Shanahan’s scheme — and were only later persuaded to take Lance. The Niners said all along that they viewed multiple passers as legitimate candidates for the No. 3 pick, so blocking the Pats and assuring themselves of the chance to select Jones was not the only motivation for the deal, but it was certainly a perk.

As Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston tweets, there may have been another benefit to the trade as it relates to New England. Even if Lance was the 49ers’ target all along, floating the possibility that they were going to nab Jones might have prompted the Pats to swing a deal for Jimmy Garoppolo.

In the end, Jones fell to the Patriots at No. 15 overall, and he will be under center for the club’s regular season opener against the Dolphins today. Meanwhile, Garoppolo is still starting for the 49ers, and Lance will operate as his backup.

That arrangement may not last long. As Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, Shanahan has already installed plays for Lance, who will see the field in certain packages right away. And one source says Lance will assume more and more responsibilities as the early part of the season goes on while Garoppolo showcases his talents for teams that might be interested in trading for him prior to the November 2 deadline.

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49ers Sign Trey Lance

It’s a done deal. On Wednesday, No. 3 overall draft pick Trey Lance formally inked his rookie contract with the 49ers. 

Per the terms of his slot, the quarterback will earn $34.1MM over the next four years. And, as a first-rounder, the Niners will reserve the right to tack on an additional season via the fifth-year option. Lance’s deal — completed just before the 49ers’ Wednesday morning practice — leaves Jets’ No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson as the last unsigned first-round pick.

The future is bright for Lance, but he’ll open the year on the bench. Earlier this week, Kyle Shanahan made it clear that Jimmy Garoppolo is still his QB1.

“Trey’s had seven practices with us, and I haven’t seen him in 40 days, so I’m not thinking about that right now,” Shanahan said. “There’s no open competition right now in terms of equal reps with the same group…Jimmy is coming in as the one, and Trey is coming in as the two.”

Of course, that’ll likely be Lance’s job come 2022. Niners GM John Lynch is saying all the right things, but he didn’t mortgage all that draft ammo for a professional clipboard holder.

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Latest On Trey Lance, 49ers QB “Competition”

There isn’t a QB competition in San Francisco. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said there is no open competition for the starting gig, as veteran Jimmy Garoppolo is the definitive starter while rookie Trey Lance will serve as the backup (via NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo via Twitter).

“Trey’s had seven practices with us, and I haven’t seen him in 40 days, so I’m not thinking about that right now,” Shanahan said (via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area). “There’s no open competition right now in terms of equal reps with the same group…Jimmy is coming in as the one, and Trey is coming in as the two.”

This isn’t the first time the organization has expressed this sentiment. In fact, we heard earlier this year that the team was willing to roll with Garoppolo for the next two years before inevitably turning to Lance, the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft. To the 49ers credit, they seem to be sticking to their story, but it remains to be seen if they’ll stick with the game plan.

Few first-round quarterbacks since the Packers’ Brett Favre-to-Aaron Rodgers transition have failed to take over starting jobs as rookies, let alone second-year passers. In every non-Rodgers case, a first-round pick having failed to seize the job by Year 2 signaled a bust. Garoppolo sat for three-plus seasons behind Tom Brady, but the Patriots selected him in the 2014 second round. Garoppolo piloted the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV, throwing 27 touchdown passes in 2019, but has been unreliable from a health standpoint since coming to San Francisco. This led to the team trading up for Lance.

Meanwhile, Lance has yet to ink his rookie contract, but GM John Lynch believes a deal will be completed sooner than later.

“We’ve never had a holdout but it always seems to go down to the wire,” Lynch said (via Garafolo on Twitter). “It’s important he is here.”

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Kyle Shanahan Discusses Decision To Take Trey Lance Over Mac Jones

Even up until the day of the 2021 Draft, it was still uncertain which QB the 49ers would take with the No. 3 pick. Our final report on the subject indicated that the decision was down to the team’s eventual pick, Trey Lance, and Alabama’s Mac Jones, who ended up going to the Patriots at No. 15.

During a recent appearance on the “Flying Coach” podcast, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan seemed to indicate that the team did seriously consider Jones before ultimately choosing Lance.

“I think either one would have been a good decision,” Shanahan said (h/t Yahoo’s Josh Schrock). “Like, you’re not moving up if you don’t feel good about both of those. And if it had just been one then we probably would have said no — well, we probably wouldn’t have said that because it’s still risky. But we really — either one of those players would have been a great pick, in my opinion. And the third guy with Justin [Fields], he would have been a great pick. It’s just what direction do you want to go.

“There’s so many things that go into it and you’ve got to make that decision. But I didn’t blame people at all for thinking it would be Mac Jones. Because Mac Jones deserves that. He’s that good of a player and he put it on tape for a whole year, and everyone did want to relate me to Kirk [Cousins] because that’s the only guy that I was openly going for as a free agent, so people talk about him. But Trey brought another element. And it doesn’t mean he’s better or worse. It just means he brought another element that over the course of us studying it really intrigued us, and that’s a direction I would love to go and have always wanted to go.

“But the guy has got to be able to do it all, and Trey sold us that he could and that’s why I’m excited to work with him and it’s up to us to get him to do it.”

After acquiring the No. 3 pick from the Dolphins for No. 12 and a pair of future firsts, the 49ers never really showed their hand, but it sounds like the team was sincerely exploring all of their potential options. As Shanahan noted, the 49ers seemed to value Lance’s diverse skill set, something that was especially evident during a 2019 collegiate season where the quarterback ran for 1,100 yards. For comparison’s sake, Jones had 42 rushing yards throughout his entire college career.

While Lance will eventually be under center for his new team, it sounds like the team is going to give Jimmy Garoppolo every opportunity to win the starting gig.

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Latest On Unsigned First-Round Rookies

After the Falcons inked first-round tight end Kyle Pitts to his rookie deal earlier today, there are eight first-round rookies who remain unsigned:

1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB (Clemson)
2) New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB (BYU)
3) San Francisco 49ers (from Texans via Dolphins): Trey Lance, QB (North Dakota State)
13) Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT (Northwestern)
14) New York Jets (from Vikings): Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL (USC)
15) New England Patriots: Mac Jones, QB (Alabama)
25) Jacksonville Jaguars (from Rams): Travis Etienne, RB (Clemson)
26) Cleveland Browns: Greg Newsome II, CB (Northwestern)

This isn’t a huge cause for concern, as first-round contracts are pretty standard and by-the-book. However, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler has an explanation for why at least a handful of these players still haven’t put pen to paper. According to the reporter (via Twitter), there are still some “wrinkles to work out” for the notable quarterback deals. This sentiment would presumably apply to each of the top-three picks, and it could even be referring to Patriots first-round quarterback Mac Jones.

There’s a number of minor details that agents could be pushing for, including signing bonus terms or any other contract language that goes beyond the standard, boilerplate options. On the other side, teams could be pushing for some type of offset language, meaning the organization would get some financial flexibility if the player for some reason doesn’t finish their rookie contract with the team.

When it comes to the quarterbacks, most of the agents are probably waiting to see how Lawrence’s deal unfolds in Jacksonville. Alternatively, if Bill Belichick and the Patriots (somehow) give in to any demands from Jones camp, you can bet the top-three QBs would argue for similar benefits. While there are a number of reasons why the other, non-QB players have yet to sign, one could guess that the two offensive lineman may be pushing for similar terms (Vera-Tucker could also simply be waiting for his teammate to sign their contract). Etienne is in a unique position as one of only two first-round running backs (or, like Vera-Tucker, he could be waiting for his teammate), while Newsome recently fired his agent.

The teams and the players will want the contracts settled prior to training camp in late-July, but that still leaves a few weeks for negotiating.

Ten First-Round Picks Remain Unsigned

This year, NFL teams have been quick to tackle their rookie paperwork. Still, there are a decent number of unsigned draft picks remaining, including ten of this year’s first-rounders: 

In a sense, this is a sign that things are back to normal in football following the pandemic. For example, by June 12th of 2019, 22 first-round picks had put pen to paper, with 222 rookies inked on the whole. However, around this time last year, there were just two first-round picks officially in the fold – Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Panthers defensive lineman Derrick Brown.

Offset language and similar minutia could be holding these ten deals up, but there’s no reason to panic. In all likelihood, these rookie contracts will be squared away before the start of training camp this summer.

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Extra Points: Lance, 49ers, Chubb, Broncos, Patriots

The 49ers just drafted Trey Lance third overall, officially starting the countdown clock for how long Jimmy Garoppolo will remain the team’s starter. Lance was considered a somewhat raw prospect due to his limited amount of college experience at North Dakota State, which is why most expect Garoppolo to open the season as the starter. While Garoppolo is the favorite to be under center come Week 1, that doesn’t mean we won’t get to see Lance on the field right away.

The 49ers will try to “sprinkle in Lance the way the Saints have used Taysom Hill in recent seasons,” Matt Barrows of The Athletic believes. Barrows highlights recent comments Kyle Shanahan made on KNBR, when he raved about how Lance’s athleticism could open up the offense.

It really makes the defense — if you’re in certain formations — honor 11-on-11 football. Because he is that type of threat, not just with his feet but also the way he runs the ball. He’s very natural at it. He can protect himself. He’s got the size to handle a couple of things. He’s always going to be a threat at any time,” the 49ers head coach said. Even if he’s not throwing the bulk of the passes, it’ll be fun to see what kind of packages Shanahan can come up with for Lance off the bench.

Here’s more from around the league on a quiet Sunday offseason night:

  • We heard over the weekend that Bradley Chubb underwent an ankle procedure, which understandably caused some concern. Broncos fans were surely having flashbacks to when the young stud pass-rusher missed most of the 2019 season with a torn ACL. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear to be anything serious. The surgery was a scope to remove a bone spur, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets, noting that it’s “very common.” Rapsheet adds he’ll be in a “boot for a couple weeks and will be fully ready for camp.” The fifth overall pick of the 2018 draft is coming off a Pro Bowl season where he had 7.5 sacks in 14 games.
  • The Patriots have a 17-year streak going of at least one undrafted rookie making their opening day roster. That streak looks like it may be coming to an end, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes. Reiss points out the team has only signed one UDFA so far, kicker Quinn Nordin from Michigan. The Pats have three kickers on the roster and Nordin will need to beat out both Nick Folk and Roberto Aguayo if New England is going to make it 18 years in a row.

NFC South Notes: Lance, Tryon, Spencer

Let’s take a look at some news and notes from the NFC South as we approach the witching hour on this Tuesday evening:

  • The Falcons were perhaps the most interesting team to watch during the first hour of last month’s draft, as they could have gone in any number of directions. Ultimately, they kept their No. 4 overall pick and selected Florida TE Kyle Pitts as part of their effort to gear up for one final run with Matt Ryan. But if the 49ers had not selected North Dakota State QB Trey Lance one pick before Atlanta, then Lance might be holding Ryan’s clipboard this year. The Falcons were represented at both of Lance’s Pro Days, and as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com writes, if there was a signal-caller to stop Atlanta from taking Pitts, Lance might have been it (subscription required). A source tells Fowler that Lance thought the Falcons were the club most interested in him, and after the Pro Days, NDSU coaching staff got the sense that Lance would not fall past Atlanta.
  • The final pick of the first round of this year’s draft, Joe Tryon, underwent a knee scope a few weeks ago, per Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians (Twitter link via Jenna Laine of ESPN.com). Luckily, Arians said the Washington product should be ready to go by next month’s mandatory minicamp. Tryon opted out of the 2020 collegiate season, but he was a menace in 2019, racking up eight sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. He should provide even more firepower to Tampa’s front seven.
  • The Panthers continue to make additions to their personnel department. Carolina has hired former Washington Football Team scout Cole Spencer as its new director of college scouting, the team announced. The Panthers hired former linebacker Dan Morgan as their assistant GM last week, and new general manager Scott Fitterer is continuing to put his stamp on the front office. Spencer had been with WFT for over a decade and was promoted to national scout in 2019.

49ers Fine With Jimmy Garoppolo Starting Two More Seasons

Despite being in trade rumors going into the draft, Jimmy Garoppolo remains a 49er. The soon-to-be 30-year-old quarterback now looks set, with the team having drafted North Dakota State one-year starter Trey Lance, to enter another season as San Francisco’s starting quarterback.

The 49ers are also not shutting the door on Garoppolo keeping his job into 2022. While this would be highly unusual for a modern first-round QB, especially one the 49ers traded two future first-round picks for, CEO Jed York said the Garoppolo-in-2022 scenario has come up at team headquarters.

We’ve talked about this internally,” York said during an appearance on 49ers Talk with Matt Maiocco and Laura Britt (via NBC Sports). “If we’re in a situation where Jimmy goes out and takes us to a Super Bowl again and has an MVP-caliber season, and does it again, there are worse dilemmas to be in. And Jimmy certainly has the ability to do that.

“Knowing it’s the most important position in sports, and it’s great to have a guy that you do believe in and has gotten you to a Super Bowl. So you don’t have to put the weight of the world on a rookie, whoever it was we were going to choose.”

Few first-round quarterbacks since the Packers’ Brett Favre-to-Aaron Rodgers transition have failed to take over starting jobs as rookies, let alone second-year passers. In every non-Rodgers case, a first-round pick having failed to seize the job by Year 2 signaled a bust. Garoppolo sat for three-plus seasons behind Tom Brady, but the Patriots selected him in the 2014 second round. Garoppolo piloted the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV, throwing 27 touchdown passes in 2019, but has been unreliable from a health standpoint since coming to San Francisco. This led to the team trading up for Lance.

The 49ers would save $25.6MM by moving on from Garoppolo in 2022, which still should be considered the likely scenario. Garoppolo’s salary remaining on the books will prevent the 49ers from capitalizing on a rookie QB contract, which has become a valuable roster-building tool since the 2011 CBA reshaped rookie deals. Lance only attempted 318 passes in college, declaring for the draft ahead of his COVID-19-nixed sophomore season.

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49ers Will Not Ask Jimmy Garoppolo To Take Paycut

Jimmy Garoppolo may not be with the 49ers beyond the 2021 season — if he makes it that far — but he will not be asked to take a pay cut or restructure his contract. GM John Lynch was clear on that point, as Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle writes.

Of course, Lynch just selected Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. While we have known ever since the 49ers traded a king’s ransom to the Dolphins to acquire that pick that they would use it on a QB, San Francisco brass has also implied that Garoppolo would be the starter at least to open the season while the rookie passer gets his feet wet at the professional level.

Branch, however, suggests that Lance could take the reins right away, meaning that the 49ers would be paying their backup a $24.2MM salary, to go along with a $27MM cap charge. But Lynch and team ownership have no issue with that proposition.

“I think it’s a testament to the commitment of our ownership,” Lynch said. “When this process was going on, that’s a question that we asked. We arrived at a point where that was our preference: to draft a quarterback and keep Jimmy, provided that someone didn’t come and just completely blow us way (with a trade offer). And they gave us that commitment. Yeah, we could do that. And we’re happy to have that situation right now. Because we believe it’s a very strong one.”

The 49ers do have the cap space to make it work. As Branch notes, San Francisco currently has $18.2MM of room, and while the club still has to sign its eight-man draft class and work out an extension for LB Fred Warner, that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

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