Part of the reason Trey Lance wanted out of San Francisco was to go somewhere where he could be a backup quarterback. He lost the QB2 battle to Sam Darnold, which prompted the team to explore dealing their No. 3 overall pick from the 2021 draft. So far Dallas was not the place for him to get that opportunity.
Lance didn’t want to be a third QB behind Brock Purdy and Sam Darnold, and the team publicly wanted to honor that desire. Head coach Kyle Shanahan made that clear the night Lance was traded.
“And when we told Trey that he wasn’t the two, I said we’d like to keep him here as the three, but we also want to do what’s good for him too, and we’ll see how this plays out,” Shanahan said in a press conference. “When we looked into other teams and he told us that he would like another opportunity to go somewhere where we had a chance to be the two, we thought we got some good deals for him. There’s a number of teams involved, to end up getting the fourth was a little better than we anticipated and clears up a lot of money and allows a better situation for him too.”
It turns out they were probably not going to take Lance’s development and future into account once a fourth-round pick landed on the table as compensation. Had only sixth or seventh-round picks been on the table in trade talks they might have been more particular about what the opportunities were.
It’s also worth noting that 49ers general manager John Lynch said Lance’s agent played a role in the trade talks.
“We kind of worked on it together and I told Patrick Collins, his rep, I told Patrick feel free to go out and find teams if you want,” Lynch said. “So, we kind of kept in communication during the process. And I want to let you guys know, Trey was tremendous during this whole thing. He handled it as well as you could and just asked if there a good landing spot I’d be appreciative of that, but if I’m here, I’m here.”
In three weeks as a Dallas Cowboy, Lance has been a healthy inactive as the emergency QB all three weeks with Cooper Rush backing up Dak Prescott. Given when he was traded there was never a particularly high likelihood that Lance was going to win the QB2 job in Dallas.
Perhaps there are practice reps available in Dallas that Lance wasn’t going to get with the 49ers.
Maybe he really likes Texas or wants to play and develop under Mike McCarthy.
He could conceivably be vying for the backup QB gig every week and just needs more time to learn the offense before they had him the keys to that job.
There’s always a possibility too that Dallas really likes Lance and thinks he could provide an immediate solution if Prescott sows some level of doubt this season that he’s a franchise quarterback.
Either way it turns out Lance is still a QB3, just in a different uniform. Whether the 49ers knew that would be the case or not ultimately doesn’t matter. They got more draft compensation for him than they likely thought they’d get, and once it reaches that point it’s hard to blame them for caring less about what the next opportunity looked like for Lance.