Trey Lance

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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49ers Draft North Dakota State QB Trey Lance At No. 3

With the third pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the 49ers selected North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. The Niners considered a number of QBs at No. 3 overall, but Lance had emerged as a potential frontrunner in recent days.

Alabama’s Mac Jones and Ohio State’s Justin Fields may be slightly disappointed. Both passers conducted additional pro days specifically geared for the 49ers, but they weren’t able to unseat the North Dakota State phenom.

Despite some (reported) consideration for Jones, the front office ultimately went for Lance, who many say has more upside. Lance did a second audition for the Niners a week and a half ago, using many of Kyle Shanahan‘s favorite drills. Apparently, that Pro Day re-do made an impression. Lance hardly played last year, but he flexed his talent in 2019 as he went off for 28 passing touchdowns, zero interceptions, and 1,100 yards on the ground.

While the first two picks of the draft were clear-cut, there were plenty of questions surrounding the third-overall pick. Even the 49ers seemed unsure about who they were going to take when they paired a pair of future first-round picks with No. 12 to trade up for No. 3 from the Dolphins. San Francisco never really showed their hand, although in recent days it sounded like the organization had settled on either Lance or Jones. This made the No. 3 pick the most interesting selection in the draft, and it will have an impact on the rest of the evening.

Despite being selected with the third-overall pick, Lance might not necessarily be under center come Week 1 considering the presence of Jimmy Garoppolo on the roster. Still, despite the front office declaring that they’re fine keeping a pair of high-profile quarterbacks, there’s a good chance the veteran is moved (either via trade or release) prior to the start of the season, providing a clear path to playing time for the rookie QB.

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49ers Down To Mac Jones, Trey Lance?

The 49ers’ focus at No. 3 appears to have narrowed to Alabama’s Mac Jones and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). Pelissero notes that Lance and the Niners chatted following his second pro day last week, which was specifically tailored to Kyle Shanahan‘s favorite drills. 

Previously, the 49ers were believed to have three quarterbacks in consideration with Justin Fields completing the trio. Now, it seems that the Ohio State star is no longer in the mix. This jibes with a recent report from NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, who now seems on course to be available for the Falcons at No. 4.

Lance seems to have the most overall buzz of the three, since he’s believed to have the most upside. Jones, despite his 77% completion rate last year, seems to have garnered disproportionate attention from the Niners. Still, NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo (Twitter link) has yet to hear from an executive that thinks it’d be crazy for the Niners to take him (and mortgage future picks for him) at No. 3.

Mac’s a stud,” said the anonymous executive. “[He has] everything you want.”

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49ers Down To Mac Jones And Trey Lance

The 2021 NFL Draft is right around the corner, and the first two picks are more or less set in stone. Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson are widely expected to be picked first and second respectively by the Jaguars and Jets. The big question has been what the 49ers will do at three, and their decision will set the table for the rest of the draft.

Now, we’re starting to get a better idea of what San Francisco is going to do. The 49ers are down to Alabama’s Mac Jones and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, sources told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). That would rule out Ohio State’s Justin Fields, who was seen as the other contender to be taken third overall. Jones is the favorite, while Lance has been not far behind through the process.

When the 49ers pulled off their shocking trade to move up to number three and draft an eventual Jimmy Garoppolo replacement, Jones quickly emerged as the rumored target. Some found it difficult to believe that Jones, unheralded as an NFL prospect before 2020, would really be Kyle Shanahan’s preference at number three.

But that’s what most of the reporting has consistently indicated, whether college football fans want to believe it or not. Many believe that Shanahan has fallen in love with Jones’ pocket presence and footwork. Lance is the far superior athlete, and is viewed as having sky-high upside while at the same time possibly being a riskier proposition.

The news also means Fields will be there for the taking for the Falcons if they want him at four, or for a potential trade partner with Atlanta. There are still a few days until the draft kicks off on Thursday, but things are beginning to take shape.

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Poll: How Will Broncos Address QB Need?

The only two starting quarterbacks to retire after winning Super Bowls played for the same franchise. While the Broncos made the playoffs multiple times in the five years following John Elway‘s retirement — with the likes of Brian Griese and Jake Plummer operating as the team’s primary starters — they have hovered off the contention radar for most of their post-Peyton Manning stretch. No team has started more quarterbacks than Denver’s 10 (counting the Kendall Hinton game) since 2016.

This stretch has placed the Broncos back on the quarterback radar. Although their last foray into the first-round market careened off course quickly (Paxton Lynch in 2016), the Broncos’ three subsequent QB investments — Case Keenum, Joe Flacco and Drew Lock — largely struggled. Will this run of futility at the NFL’s premier position force the Broncos to acquire one of this year’s top QB prospects?

New GM George Paton has said multiple times this offseason the Broncos will acquire a quarterback to push Lock, but it is not certain that will be a rookie. Denver brass, however, did extensive work on this year’s top passer crop. Paton was at Justin Fields and Trey Lance‘s initial pro days, while offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur trekked to the second workouts held by the Ohio State and North Dakota State QBs. Other teams have viewed Denver as a stealth quarterback seeker as well.

Only two of the draft’s top five passing prospects will be available to teams picking after No. 3, with the 49ers moving up for a quarterback. Considering the needs of some teams picking outside the top 10 — the Patriots, Washington and Bears have been linked to trade-up maneuvers — and the not-impossible prospect of the Lions (No. 7) or Panthers (No. 8) jumping into the fray, it is possible the Broncos will be left out if they stand pat at No. 9. They are believed to have inquired about trading up, though Paton denied this. The Falcons (No. 4), Dolphins (No. 6), Lions and Panthers are all open to trades, creating opportunities for the Broncos and teams eager to trade in front of them.

Given the Broncos’ above-average defense and bevy of skill-position weapons, going into another season with Lock (29th in 2020 QBR) could lower the team’s ceiling — in a hot-seat year for Vic Fangio. But Fangio’s status could also push the team to trade for a veteran instead of hoping this year’s fourth- or fifth-best QB prospect can make an impact right away. Although the Broncos sat out the free agent market and passed on trades for Carson Wentz and Sam Darnold — after falling short for Matthew Stafford — veteran arms remain available.

Paton was with the Vikings when they drafted Teddy Bridgewater in the 2014 first round; Carolina has since given Bridgewater permission to seek a trade. Given Paton’s history with the 28-year-old QB, it would make sense if the Broncos were one of the teams interestedGardner Minshew figures to be available — even though Urban Meyer denied it. The 49ers are holding out for a big offer to part with now-lame-duck starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

Lock has not been blessed with great circumstances, despite Denver drafting Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler in the first and second rounds last year. The pandemic nixed the young passer’s first offseason with Shurmur, and No. 1 receiver Courtland Sutton went down in Week 2 last year. But the 2022 quarterback class, as of now, has received far less hype than the past two drafts’ QB crops generated. The Broncos not making a move for Fields, Lance or Mac Jones next week could limit their options going forward.

How do you think the Broncos will play this? Will they prioritize acquiring another quarterback by trading up or hope one falls to No. 9? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts on this situation in the comments section.

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Latest On Sam Darnold, Panthers’ Draft Plans

Shortly after the Panthers’ trade for quarterback Sam Darnold was completed, it was reported that Carolina would pick up Darnold’s fifth-year option for 2022. After all, it wouldn’t make sense for the team to trade three draft picks for a young passer without giving that passer at least two seasons to show what he can do.

However, the club has not exercised the option just yet. As Joe Person of The Athletic points out, virtually no teams have made official decisions on the fifth-year options for their 2018 first-rounders (the deadline to do so is May 3). So it could simply be that the Panthers’ brass just hasn’t gotten around to it.

Or, it could mean that the club is waiting to see if a collegiate passer it likes falls to its No. 8 overall selection. According to Person, the Panthers are not in love with Trey Lance or Mac Jones, and it’s a foregone conclusion that Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson will be the first two players off the board. So if Ohio State signal-caller Justin Fields — who is said to “intrigue” the Carolina front office — is there for the taking at No. 8, perhaps he could be the pick, which could lead to Darnold having his fifth-year option declined.

A source tells Person that Darnold’s option is still expected to be exercised. And with the Panthers having emerged as a legitimate trade-down candidate, perhaps this is all part of a ploy to drive up the price of the No. 8 pick. A trade down the board would allow Carolina to recoup some much-needed draft capital while still putting the team in range for one of the draft’s top cornerbacks (according to Person, the Panthers are high on several first-round CB prospects). Although Oregon’s Penei Sewell will likely be gone by the time the Panthers are on the clock, another quality LT could be had at No. 8 or a little bit later if the team chooses to move down.

In addition to Darnold, Carolina also has another 2018 first-rounder, D.J. Moore, to make a fifth-year decision on. The Panthers will almost certainly exercise his option, which checks in at $11.116MM, so the team may need to part with Robby Anderson in 2022. Which means, as David Newton of ESPN.com writes, a wide receiver like Alabama’s DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle could be in play. Either receiver would go a long way towards helping Darnold both this year and in the future.

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Draft Rumors: Chase, Lions, Lance, Patriots

Either the Bengals are crafting a layered smokescreen operation, or they are ready to eschew their top need to load up at wide receiver. Oregon tackle Penei Sewell is expected to be on the board when the Bengals go on the clock at No. 5, but Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic notes “all signs” point to the team picking LSU wideout Ja’Marr Chase (subscription required). This marks another Chase-to-Cincinnati connection. Such a move would reunite Chase and Joe Burrow and give the Bengals a top-flight trio of Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. This would come at the expense of a key O-line pick, though the Bengals did sign Riley Reiff to join Jonah Williams at tackle. And director of player personnel Duke Tobin pointed to this draft’s depth on the O-line, believing the team can acquire a starter on Day 2. Despite Burrow suffering a major knee injury behind a leaky line last season, he is believed to have made an effort to sell Bengal brass on Chase. The 2020 opt-out is viewed as this draft’s top wide receiver.

Here is the latest news coming out of the draft:

  • The Lions have made noise as a team interested in trading down, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Many around the league believe the Bengals and Dolphins will stay at their Nos. 5 and 6 positions, though the Dolphins have since surfaced as a team considering another move down the board. Should Cincy and Miami stay at their respective spots, Detroit would emerge as a team willing to auction off its pick to a quarterback-seeking team. One or two QBs figure to be on the board when the Lions go on the clock at No. 7, and while new GM Brad Holmes has said he studied this year’s QBs, Jared Goff has received internal support. And the Lions are in a full-on rebuild; trading down could net them a third 2022 first-round pick.
  • The Patriots sent staffers to Justin Fields and Trey Lance‘s second pro days. Although the Pats re-signed Cam Newton and have not chosen a first-round quarterback since Drew Bledsoe 28 years ago — well before Bill Belichick‘s HC tenure — Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork.com writes the team would like to take one in this year’s first round. Belichick generally runs a tight ship ahead of drafts, with advance intel difficult to come by, but a recent report also indicated the Pats are on the QB radar — potentially as a trade-up team.
  • Although a previous report had Washington reps attending Lance’s second pro day, Breer notes Ron Rivera‘s team was not in Fargo, N.D., for the Division I-FCS prospect’s second showcase. The 49ers, Falcons, Broncos and Patriots were there. The 49ers were the only team to send its head coach or GM; both Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch were there. Lack of attendance aside, Washington is believed to be high on Lance. The team might not be interested in climbing too high for him, but if Lance falls into the bottom half of the top 10, Washington may pounce.