SANTA CLARA — The 49ers on Friday gave up on quarterback Trey Lance without him ever getting much of an opportunity.
The 49ers burned three first-round selections over three years and a third-round pick to trade in order to select him.
Lance, 23, still has two years remaining on his contract.
In other words, there is still plenty of time for Lance to pay dividends. After all, the quarterback who opened last season at No. 3 on the depth chart is now the unquestioned starter.
So why give up on Lance now?
“It's a fair question and it's something we talked a lot about internally,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said Friday night, hours after the club traded Lance to the Dallas Cowboys for a fourth-round draft pick.
Brock Purdy is the starter. Sam Darnold beat out Lance as the backup. Lance sought a fresh start, and the sides collaborated on finding him a new home.
San Francisco 49ers
Those two players will get virtually all of the practice snaps during the season, so there might not have been much opportunity for Lance to improve, Lynch said.
“He needs to play to get better,” Lynch said. “And I think that's going to be his opportunity. Play, I mean, ideally games. But play is running scout team, play is doing all those things. We weren't going to have that.”
Lynch said the 49ers received multiple offers for Lance. When the conversations started on Wednesday, teams were willing to only send the 49ers late-round picks.
The Cowboys’ offer of a fourth-round selection was the best the 49ers could get, Lynch said.
“It's not what it looked like when we first started having conversations,” Lynch said. “It wasn’t anywhere close. So it did advance in a hurry (Friday).
“I’m not doing cartwheels over it because my preference would've been that it worked out, and it didn’t.”
The 49ers realize no savings on the salary cap this year. In fact, it costs them. Lance’s $940,000 salary is wiped from the books, but his spot will be taken by quarterback Brandon Allen, whose cap figure is $1,092,500.
Next year, the 49ers' cap savings will be Lance’s scheduled $5.31 million guaranteed salary minus the cost of the quarterback added to the roster.
“Trey's on the minimum this year,” Lynch said. “Next year, it kicks up quite a bit. And that kind of coincides with when our stuff's going to get tight. So, of course, that plays a factor.”
Lance was devastated to learn Darnold beat him out for the No. 2 spot, according to both Lynch and Shanahan. Both men said Lance expressed his desire for a fresh start and a better opportunity elsewhere.
Just 2 1/2 years after the 49ers made a huge investment in Lance, the Cowboys acquired him for, comparatively, a minimal commitment.
"Like Trey, typical Trey, he apologized to us and there was nothing for him to apologize for," Lynch said.
"And we're happy that he's got a spot. The Cowboys came up big and I think that's an indication that they're excited to have him and we're excited for Trey's new opportunity. And we'll always be big fans.”