Why 49ers like Lance but haven't been shy about trade talks


Several teams have called the 49ers to gauge their interest in trading quarterback Trey Lance.

A source confirmed NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport's report that, yes, unspecified teams have called about Lance’s availability and, no, the 49ers are not actively seeking to trade him.

It should come as no surprise that the 49ers are fielding calls. After all, they opened the door for teams to inquire about Lance -- and anyone else on their roster -- with their long-held public stance that they will listen to any team that calls about any player.

But the situation surrounding Lance is a lot different.

He's entering his third professional season after the 49ers — specifically coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch — selected him after trading up to the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. And Lance, who turns 23 on May 9, isn't currently viewed as the 49ers’ top option after Brock Purdy’s strong finish to last season.

“I think Brock has earned the right with the way he played,” Lynch said last month at the NFL Annual Meeting. “He’s probably the leader in the clubhouse. I’ll let Kyle make those kinds of decisions. But I know when we talk, I think Brock has probably earned that right to be the guy."

Shanahan echoed those words one day later while also addressing the reality that there is no guarantee when Purdy will be available to play after March 10 elbow surgery. The anticipated timetable is for Purdy to begin a three-month ramp-up program by mid-June to return to full strength.

Remember, Shanahan is the person who once famously said, “I can't guarantee that anybody in the world will be alive Sunday, so I can't guarantee who will be on our roster on Sunday.”

Purdy, with a hat-tip toward Shanahan, recently answered a question from Yahoo! Sports about whether he will play this season. His answer: “I'm not really sure, honestly.”

Just to be clear, there is no indication Purdy will have to sit out the season. But there are no absolute guarantees of his timely return, either.

Purdy will not be available for any on-field work during the 49ers’ offseason program and, at least, through most of training camp in August. So, right now, that leaves Lance to take the bulk of the first-team practice snaps with veteran Sam Darnold as the only healthy quarterbacks on the 49ers' 90-man offseason roster.

Lance's situation is fascinating. There probably hasn't been anyone quite like him in NFL history.

Lance was anointed the 49ers' quarterback of the future even while he remained No. 2 on the depth chart behind veteran Jimmy Garoppolo during his rookie season. Lance took over as the top quarterback last offseason while the 49ers unsuccessfully tried to trade Garoppolo. Then Lance sustained a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2, and Garoppolo returned to his starting role until his injury opened the door for Purdy.

Usually, if a high draft pick isn't the clear-cut starter entering his third season, there are multiple reasons, such as discontent on several different levels. But with Lance, there never has been a bad word uttered about him. His talent, work ethic, passion, leadership and everything else have been impeccable.

Still, there are questions about whether Lance can develop into a franchise quarterback. Are his timing and accuracy from the pocket at levels in which he can thrive in the 49ers’ offensive system? The injury last season is the reason nobody has a better idea at this point whether he can succeed or not.

The lack of bad reviews about Lance is another big reason why teams have reached out to the 49ers to see the price it would take to acquire him.

One high-ranking member of the 49ers organization told NBC Sports Bay Area he believed Lance would have achieved the same level of success last season that Purdy had during his impressive late stretch as the starter.

The difference: Purdy proved it, and it's only an educated guess with Lance.

“We like Trey on our team right now,” Lynch said last month. “Kyle and I always joke we'd trade each other if someone would give us a good enough deal. So we listen to anything, but we like Trey on our team.”

RELATED: 49ers could use 2023 NFL Draft to fill needs for future seasons

The 49ers needed three quarterbacks during the 2022 regular season in order to finish 13-4 and win the NFC West. Right now, the belief within the organization is the 49ers can accomplish their goals for the upcoming season with Purdy, Lance or Darnold.

The 49ers have reasons to like Lance on their team, including because of the uncertainty surrounding Purdy’s recovery and timetable. And that's how it will remain ... unless, of course, the 49ers receive an offer they believe they simply cannot afford to turn down.

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