Sam Darnold

Darnold shares insightful advice for Lance after 49ers trade QB to Cowboys

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Trey Lance's NFL career took a full 180 this week, and no one knows the feeling quite like 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold.

The 49ers moved on from the guy who was supposed to be their franchise quarterback by trading Lance to the Dallas Cowboys on Friday for a 2024 fourth-round draft pick. A few hours later, Darnold weighed in on the situation.

“I haven't gotten a chance to speak to him yet, since he got traded," Darnold said after the 49ers' preseason finale Friday night. "He's a great dude. He was loved in the locker room. He was all those things. He was a great teammate, even with me coming here and competing and doing all those things. Even since OTAs, he has been nothing but great to me. I've appreciated that a ton."

Darnold, who was drafted No. 3 overall by the New York Jets in 2018, knows the pressure that comes with being a high-draft pick, especially as a quarterback. After three seasons with the Jets, he was traded to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for second-, fourth- and sixth-round picks.

Those first five seasons of Darnold’s NFL journey didn't meet expectations, though, and his teams went a combined 21-34 in his starts. He was named the backup to Baker Mayfield in 2022 and prepared to become a free agent the following offseason for the first time in his career.

The 26-year-old signed a one-year, $4.5 million contract in March to join the 49ers and their teetering QB room, with a real chance to compete for the backup job. Five months later, he earned it and was named the official No. 2 option, leaving Lance in the dust and essentially packing the 23-year-old's bags to Dallas.

Lance now will have a fresh start with the Cowboys, similar to Darnold's new opportunity in the Bay. While the veteran QB didn't have the chance to speak to Lance on Friday, he shared some advice for the young quarterback as he embarks on his new journey.

“It’s just putting one foot in front of the other and taking it one day at a time," Darnold said. "Obviously, going there, I know he is going to seize whatever opportunity that comes his way. He's going to dive headfirst into that playbook and get it down.

"So it's just really a what's-next mentality in terms of trying to get the playbook down. You don't really have time to think about any other things other than football.”

Lance's 49ers career came to an unfortunate ending, but at just 23, his NFL future remains unwritten.

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