Entering the season, the San Francisco 49ers’ situation at quarterback in both the short- and long-term seemed set.
Now, it feels as though there's more uncertainty than ever. That’s probably a good problem for John Lynch.
Trey Lance, taken with the third pick in the 2021 draft, got the starting job but was injured in Week 2 and missed the remainder of the year. Jimmy Garoppolo, who was surprisingly retained, filled in and did a good job up until his season-ending injury. He was replaced with Brock Purdy, the final selection in the 2022 draft.
Purdy has responded by showing impressive poise, with the Niners yet to lose any of the six games Purdy has started. There’s enough promise there to think it isn’t just a flash in the pan, but now they’re in a unique situation because there are justifications for both Purdy and Lance to be the go-to player when both are healthy. Ultimately, a training camp battle might have to decide that.
However, there’s the Tom Brady idea. A Bay Area native, Brady has wanted to play for the 49ers before, and will be available this offseason so long as he doesn't retire. Regardless of how feasible it might be to add him, any remaining trips Brady makes to free agency likely will see him linked to San Francisco.
There is no shortage of reasons why that probably wouldn’t be a shrewd addition. But in a discussion Tuesday about the Brady-49ers concept on CBS Sports Radio’s “The Zach Gelb Show”, Audacy NFL Insider Jason La Canfora shared a nugget about Lance.
"This Brock Purdy thing doesn’t look like a fluke," La Canfora said. "They’re going to want some veteran on that team, but I don’t know how that all shakes out. Obviously, Trey Lance, do they trade him? Some people I’ve talked to in this league think they will. That’s (Brady's) hometime team, he grew up cheering for them and his family is there. But look, will it ultimately make football sense? Kyle Shanahan has wanted him before, will he want him now? I don’t know."
The idea of trading Lance is fascinating. Lance probably has the higher ceiling, but he’s going to net a more substantial return in a trade than Purdy would. Purdy’s contract is significantly less expensive too, so rolling with him and moving Lance could be beneficial asset management in a few ways.
The issue is that it has been a small sample size with both Purdy and Lance. Moving on from Lance could be a huge gamble seeing as he seems more likely to blossom into a star. Then again, the Shanahan-led 49ers haven’t needed an elite quarterback to be successful given the reliance on the run game. Perhaps they become a better overall team if they bolster other areas while leaning on Purdy.
In any event, it’s a convoluted issue -- and they probably aren't trading any quarterback unless they are certain they can count on whomever they are keeping. It’s a spot many teams would envy, but it is undoubtedly a decision that will shape the 49ers offseason.
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