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Trey Lance’s 49ers career looks to be finished

Just two years after the San Francisco 49ers made Trey Lance the third overall pick, his career with the team is being called into question.

San Francisco 49ers v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

The NFL is a brutal league, and there are few positions that come under as much scrutiny as quarterback. While teams may sometimes over-commit to a passer who they have invested heavily in, this is seemingly not the case for former third overall pick Trey Lance. Following two injury-plagued seasons that saw him play in only 8 games — making 4 starts — he is now buried on the preseason depth chart in San Francisco. According to Ian Rapoport, Lance is now not only behind Brock Purdy, but also Sam Darnold.

Lance did not appear or participate in Wednesday’s practice, which seems ominous.

While the news that Purdy sits atop the position group is not overly surprising, the fact that Darnold is QB2 is both unexpected as well as not a great sign of the organization’s feelings on the development of Lance. Adding further intrigue to this situation, Trey was absent from practice today. According to Grant Cohn, this is just another sign that the writing is on the wall and the team is preparing to move on from the player they invested so heavily in just two drafts ago.

Darnold signed with the Niners as a free agent on a one-year deal this summer; Over the Cap puts his guaranteed salary at $2M, and his cap number at just north of $5.7M. Both of these numbers are significantly lower than Trey Lance, but simply moving on from Lance isn’t an option; the 49ers may be looking to recoup some of their expenditures by trading the unproven passer, though Kyle Posey at Niners Nation points out that there aren’t many teams that may be in the market to make a big splash on somebody like Lance:

If you look at teams around the NFL that could use a quarterback, the pickings are slim. Well, to a degree. Everyone needs a quarterback, but what type of compensation would they be willing to part with, and what would the Niners be willing to accept? Then you have to think about if a team values Lance over the top quarterbacks in the following draft.

If I’m the Atlanta Falcons, I’m picking up the phone. The same could be said for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Perhaps, a team like the Detroit Lions would value Lance. In most scenarios, Lance would have to sit.

As I wrote about earlier this week, the new “Third QB rule” may benefit some passers like Holton Ahlers who are on the roster bubble; while this could be a great opportunity for someone like Ahlers, it would be a pretty bad indicator for a guy like Lance to merely take on emergency back-up duty. This would mean he could only play if both Purdy and Darnold were injured, so it wouldn’t be much consolation for a player who certainly views himself as a starter in this league.

Sure, the 49ers are bitter enemies of the Seattle Seahawks, but I certainly don’t wish ill will on Trey Lance. Hopefully, a change of scenery (preferably one that takes him outside the NFC West) may be enough to jump start his pro career. Like we saw with Geno Smith last season, finding the right environment can be the difference between anonymity and success. In the meantime, it is pretty wild to think that 2022’s “Mr. Irrelevant” currently sits above two former third overall picks who were both drafted fewer than five years apart. Again, the NFL can be a brutal league.