Skip to content

49ers’ Darnold wins QB2 battle; Lance in limbo

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The competition to be the San Francisco 49ers’ backup quarterback is over.

The 49ers are rolling with Sam Darnold as the No. 2 behind Brock Purdy, coach Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday. The team will explore all options with Trey Lance, the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL draft, a source told ESPN.

Shanahan told KNBR radio in San Francisco that he hopes Lance will remain with the 49ers even as a potential No. 3 option.

“I’m really hoping so. I mean, this isn’t a thing that we’re giving up on Trey,” Shanahan told KNBR. “This is more of how Brock played in his seven games. … They both looked good, but we do have to make a decision here and you only get so many reps at it, and we feel, starting about 10 days ago, that Sam really separated himself. We got to keep it real in that way.”

Lance did not participate in Wednesday’s practice after he and Shanahan discussed the situation earlier Wednesday.

“These are conversations I have to have with guys a lot and they’re never easy. They’re really tough,” Shanahan said, acknowledging that Lance missed practice because he was upset about the news from their conversation in the morning. “But it’s also always tough when the spotlight is on it as much as it is with this situation, with it being Trey, with our quarterback, his pick in the draft. So, I knew that was hard on him. We had such a light practice today and watching how Trey was when we talked, we just thought it was better, ‘Hey, take the day off, get away a little bit, clear your head some and we’ll talk later in the afternoon and we’ll get you back in here tomorrow… Just felt it was the best thing for him.”

With Purdy handling most of the starting duties since his return from a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, Darnold and Lance have been locked in a battle for the backup role throughout training camp.

On Tuesday, Shanahan indicated he wasn’t ready to announce his No. 2 quarterback until closer to the start of the regular season, even going as far as to say he could alternate between backups depending on the week.

Now, the depth chart has taken shape with Purdy at the top, Darnold in the backup spot and a bit of uncertainty after that with Lance and veteran Brandon Allen still on the roster.

The Niners don’t plan to keep more than three quarterbacks on the active roster, which means one of them will have to go. That player could be Lance, who a year ago at this time was heading into the season as San Francisco’s starter.

Lance suffered a broken right ankle in Week 2 and missed the rest of last season, allowing for Purdy’s ascent after leading the team to a 7-1 record as a starter and an appearance in the NFC Championship Game.

“I do think he’s going to have a lot of success in this league,” Shanahan said of Lance on KNBR. “It’s been a tough road for him because the times he has gotten an opportunity, he ended up getting hurt and missed that window and now he’s in this position and we’ll always try to do right for Trey.

“If there’s a better situation that his heart’s in and something like that, we’re going to make sure not to do something that hurts him in that way. … Trey knows how I feel about him and I hope he ends up being able to be here and that’s the best thing for him. But we got to see what is the best thing from now until then.”

Shanahan said he still plans to play Lance in the last preseason game Friday against the Chargers. After Purdy and Darnold, of course.

“Yes, I do. He comes back here and we get all this situated, I plan on Trey going in right after Sam.”

Niners general manager John Lynch said before the NFL draft in April that he’d received interest from other teams about a possible trade for Lance. At the time, Lynch said it would take something “substantial” to part ways with Lance.

“Yeah, I think there’s a lot of smoke really,” Lynch said in April. “It hasn’t been extremely active and it’s not like we’ve put it out there that, ‘Hey, we’re taking offers for Trey.’ That’s not been the process. … It hasn’t been that substantive.”

But with Darnold stepping into the backup role, that smoke is likely to reappear. To this point in the preseason, there haven’t been any notable quarterback injuries elsewhere but teams have a better feel for the signal-callers on their roster.

If the 49ers trade Lance, he will count $5,540,956 in dead money over each of the next two seasons, and the team will save $3.76 million in 2023 and $5.31 million in 2024 against the salary cap.

If the Niners release Lance, he will count $14.61 million in dead money with no savings against the cap.

Crack a cold one.
Enjoy happy hour
with top sports headlines.

News Opt-in
(Optional) By checking this box you are opting in to receive news notifications from Sports on Tap. Text HELP for help, STOP to end. Message & data rates may apply. Message frequency varies. Privacy Policy & Terms:
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.