The San Francisco 49ers paid a lot to get Trey Lance. It's looking like they're going to end up getting four starts out of him. And Lance was knocked out with an injury in the first half of one of those outings.
Sam Darnold will reportedly be the 49ers' No. 2 quarterback. After that news, it's not surprising the Niners are exploring trade options for Lance, according to NFL Media. Lance wasn't at 49ers practice on Wednesday according to NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco.
It won't be easy to trade him. Lance has barely played since the 2019 college football season. He didn't look good in the 49ers' preseason opener (he looked better last week) and San Francisco has practically given up on him. That shouldn't inspire some team to pay up. Also, Lance is already in the third year of his rookie deal, erasing a lot of the value of having a young quarterback. The 49ers traded three first-round draft picks and a third-rounder to get Lance and they'll receive a small fraction of that back, if they're able to trade Lance at all.
Lance was the third overall pick of the draft once upon a time and there are teams that could look into turning him around. Here are five that make the most sense:
This seems unlikely because the Falcons have committed to Desmond Ridder, as it showed when it completely ignored the Lamar Jackson possibility this past offseason. But Ridder is no sure thing and the Falcons did little to get a proven backup behind him. They're going to have to figure out something if Ridder doesn't work out this season. Maybe it makes sense to explore the Lance possibility as an insurance policy if Ridder fails this season.
The truth is, it's tough to find five teams that make much sense for Lance. Unless the 49ers are willing to give him away, it's not like teams are lining up to take on a quarterback in late August when he can become a free agent after the 2024 season (assuming his fifth-year option isn't picked up). The Dolphins are interesting because of Tua Tagovailoa's concussion issues. He admits he considered retirement. If he retired this past offseason, the Dolphins had no backup plan. Mike White is a fine stopgap veteran, not a long-term answer if needed. Could the Dolphins, and former 49ers assistant Mike McDaniel, take a shot on fixing a young backup behind Tagovailoa, just in case? Hey, maybe.
Kirk Cousins isn't bad, but he's set to be a free agent after this season. He's also 35 years old and maybe the Vikings will be ready to try something different. They don't have a successor lined up. Perhaps head coach Kevin O'Connell would like a reclamation project like Lance, at least as a backup plan for 2024 if Cousins isn't back.
Let's be real: The 49ers aren't trading within the division. But Matthew Stafford is 35 and his concussions are getting concerning. It seems unlikely that a trade would happen between the teams, if Lance becomes a free agent? Maybe the Rams would look into it.
Tampa Bay makes more sense than anyone else. The Buccaneers gave Baker Mayfield a one-year, $4 million deal. That's barely backup money. Kyle Trask couldn't beat out Mayfield for the starting job, which means we can pretty much eliminate any chance of him being the team's quarterback of the future. Despite all the social media jokes when Mayfield was named the Bucs' starter this week, they shouldn't be bad enough to get a top-three pick, which they'd likely need to get USC's Caleb Williams or North Carolina's Drake Maye. So what does Tampa Bay do? Maybe take a low-cost flier on Lance and see what happens. The Bucs don't have much to lose.