By Jeff Howe, Diana Rossini, Matt Barrows, and David Lombardi
The San Francisco 49ers have selected Sam Darnold as the backup quarterback behind Brock Purdy, a league source said. the athlete. NFL Network first broke the news. Here’s what you need to know:
- In a teaser from an interview with KNBR that will air later Wednesday, head coach Kyle Shanahan said Darnold began separating himself from Tre Lance about 10 days ago.
- As the 49ers explore the possibilities of trading Lance, the front office has been shopping him most of the offseason, according to a league source. The team never received a significant commercial offer.
- Darnold, 26, is entering his first season with San Francisco and sixth in the NFL. He started with the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers earlier in his career.
- Lance, 23, started last season as the 49ers’ starter before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2. He is entering his third season in the NFL.
the athleteInstant Analysis:
Lance sits out Wednesday’s practice
Lance was not on the field as the 49ers began their practice earlier Wednesday. The quarterbacks on the team were in the following order: Purdy, Darnold, and Brandon Allen.
Lance was in the building on Wednesday when news of the quarter broke but was allowed to sit outside the session. – wheelbarrows
Why did Shanahan go in this direction?
The primary limiting factor for the 49ers’ backup QB role has always been the performance floor—not the performance ceiling. Lance’s roof has been much talked about, but his inexperience has also led to a noticeable inconsistency – or a low floor. Above all, Shanahan wants the offensive to continue operating without too much of a boom-or-bust contrast if Purdy goes down.
The 49ers can continue to develop Lance behind the scenes, of course (the scouting team may offer some opportunities), but he’s now more expendable by being traded as a QB3 than ever before. – Lombardy
What the 49ers like about Darnold
Like Lance, Darnold is #3 pick – so he’s clearly a physical talent. In fact, Shanahan and the 49ers have been enamored with him ever since Darnold dropped out of USC in 2018. Shanahan has said repeatedly that he feels Darnold’s struggles with the Jets and Panthers can be rectified into a better position — and the 49ers feel they can bring them one.
Darnold has been sharp throughout training camp and the pre-season. He has only thrown two interceptions in practice, one of which bounced off his receiver. Avoiding selections was perhaps Darnold’s most important task in securing the No. 2 role. – Lombardy
Will the 49ers try to trade or cut Lance?
Having full quarterback room has been crucial to the team after running out of passers in the NFC Championship game in January. In this way, it appears that having Purdy, Darnold and Lance in the same midfield room is what the team wants. The wild card is Brandon Allen, the #4 quarterback on the team.
Ideally, the team will try to get Allen into the squad for practice next week. However, doing so would expose him to waivers, and there might be a few teams — including Allen’s former team, the Cincinnati Bengals — that would snatch him. If the 49ers get a tempting offer for Lance, they won’t bother giving up Allen. He will be the number 3 quarterback. – wheelbarrows
The 49ers almost certainly couldn’t afford to cut Lance since his fully guaranteed contract as a first-round pick means it would be $5.3 more expensive on the salary cap to cut Lance than to keep him. However, the trade will provide the 49ers with $3.8 million in capped space for 2023 at a time when the team is operating with very limited space. – Lombardy
Lance can benefit from running the team’s scouting offense
The news strongly suggests that Darnold will be the 49ers’ MVP when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1. Something Shanahan and the 49ers’ coaches will consider is which quarterback runs the scouting team’s offense in practice.
Lance could benefit from this role given his inexperience. He attempted 102 passes in regular season games in the NFL while Darnold collected 1,765 passes. Shanahan said that role, usually given to the No. 2 quarterback, will depend on who the 49ers face in a given week and which quarterback, Lance or Darnold, gives the San Francisco defense the best look of the game. – wheelbarrows
Drafted by San Francisco in 2021, Lance has backed up veteran Jimmy Garoppolo for most of his rookie season. In eight career games (four starts), he had 797 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 235 yards and one touchdown.
Lance was expected to be the starting long-term starter for the 49ers until he injured his ankle last season. Garoppolo stepped in for the first time for Lance, and Purdy subsequently established himself as the team’s best long-running midfielder after Garoppolo’s season ended prematurely with a foot injury.
The 49ers signed Darnold to a one-year deal in March, shortly after Garoppolo’s exit to the Las Vegas Raiders. Darnold began his career with the Jets, who drafted him in 2018. He amassed 11,767 yards with 61 touchdowns and 55 interceptions.
What Shanahan said
“It’s not something we give up about Trey,” Shanahan said in an interview with KNBR. “It’s more about how Brook has played in his seven preseason games and how good Sam has looked. They’ve both looked good. But we have to make a decision here. You only get so many repetitions of that. And we feel like about 10 days ago, Sam has already separated himself and we have to keep it real that way.
Ten days ago, the 49ers played the Raiders in Las Vegas. Lance, of course, got off to a slow start as he and the 49ers started the game with three series, a triple and out. Meanwhile, Darnold connected with a 37-yard completion on his first official pass attempt. Shanahan said he hopes Lance will stay on the team.
“I feel very lucky that they are here,” Shanahan said. “I really hope when it’s said and done those three guys are here and you never know when that’s going to happen. We needed four guys last year. It doesn’t happen often, but if we can get Trey as an option here I’d be very happy about that. I think The other midfielders in our room will and I think our team will.
Shanahan described Lance as “a very likable guy, and one of the best people I’ve been with”.
“I think he’s going to have a lot of success in this league,” Shanahan said. “It’s been a tough road for him because the times he got a chance he ended up getting hurt and he missed that window and now he’s in this position.
Shanahan’s comments also indicated that Lance expressed some dissatisfaction with his current situation, with Shanahan saying they have spoken and will continue to talk about other positions for the quarterback. This may be the biggest hint yet from the 49ers about why Lance missed Wednesday practice.
“We’re always going to try to do what’s right for Trey,” Shanahan said. “If he’s in the best of his heart and something like that, we’ll make sure we do something that won’t hurt him about it. Those are the things I talked to him about this morning, and they’re the things I’ll talk to him about tonight and I’ll keep talking to him about. But Trey knows how I feel.” It’s about him and I hope he can eventually be here and that’s the best thing for him, but we have to see what’s the best thing between now and then.
(Photo: Stan Szeto/USA Today)
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