On Wednesday it was revealed that Sam Darnold is QB2 in San Francisco behind Brock Purdy. While it is very funny that there was a graphic made for a backup quarterback this decision is as strong an indicator we've gotten that Trey Lance is not meant for the 49ers.
Less than an hour after this leaked the Niners arrived on the field for practice and Lance was notably absent. To use the vernacular of the youth, he gone.
In actuality it's clear the Niners do not intend to prioritize Lance's development. That was already pretty clear already but putting a veteran newcomer ahead of him on the depth chart only hammered it home. Now it's time for both sides to move on-- for San Francisco to recoup whatever they can after trading a hilarious amount of draft capital to pick Lance, and for Lance to find a home where he can get the necessary snaps to hone his athletic talents. He may not be a starting NFL QB, but there's only one way to find out, and no one is finding out anything if he's backing up Darnold.
Here are three teams who should try and trade for Lance if the Niners do decide to cut their losses.
The most obvious potential destination. The Vikings are fine right now with Kirk Cousins but don't have any long-term plans under center. He can hit free agency after this season. The front office didn't seem to believe last year's playoff run was something that could be carried over into this year and played it safe this offseason, so investing in a QB redemption project right now would make sense. While Lance does desperately need experience, and he will not get that in Minnesota if Cousins remains healthy this year, he has a clear runway to a starting job. There are no teams at this point in the year who will trade for him and give him the keys to the offense immediately so this is as good as it'll get for both sides. Well, almost no teams...
This is the one place Lance might have a shot to start Week 1, and this destination would also serve as the biggest possible indictment of what the 49ers think of him. It makes all the sense in the world for the Cardinals to go after Lance. Kyler Murray tore his ACL late enough last year that he may not see the field at any point in 2023. Arizona is going to stink out loud no matter who else is under center. They may as well burn a Day 3 draft pick to kick the tires on Lance and give him a chance to build his trade value before they move him next offseason. But if San Francisco is comfortable dumping him onto a fierce divisional rival? That would not be a good sign at all. It's worth a call for the Cardinals, though, because it's not like it can get much worse for them.
Denver is an interesting sleeper destination. Sean Payton was hired to fix Russell Wilson but there is a non-zero chance that he fails to do so for reasons outside of his control. If Wilson is, indeed, washed, then the Broncos have a lot of problems but the biggest in regards to their future is who will succeed Russ. Their backup QB right now is Jarrett Stidham and they have a very poor history drafting quarterbacks. Spending a draft pick to get an eye on Lance for a season is not the worst idea in the world. Payton is a great offensive mind who would be very helpful for Lance's development. The best-case scenario for Denver is that Wilson finds himself again, they don't pick up Lance's option, and either trade him for peanuts or cut him. But with Lance in the fold their worst-case for 2023 is watching Wilson stink and knowing they at least have somebody waiting in the wings to give people hope. Or crush it.