The San Francisco 49ers quarterback dilemma has been plaguing the minds of many this offseason, fueling daily rumors of potential trades in recent weeks. With salary cuts and off-season time running out, there are countless scenarios in which veteran Jimmy Garoppolo and their highly-drafted second-year QB Trey Lance share the limelight.
Initially, the 49ers estimated Garappolo wouldn’t be ready for training camp by July 26, but he’s edged his recovery slightly ahead of schedule for an early return from shoulder surgery. According to one report, he even started throwing two weeks ago.
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Shanahan Expects Move
“You know where we were at before that, and then he got surgery, so everything went on hold,” San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan said in May. “I expect him, at some time, most likely, to be traded, but who knows? That’s not a guarantee, and it’s been on hold [because] that happened.”
Since it can’t discounted the chance that he will recover enough to be enticing enough for interested teams to offer take him off the 49ers’ hands, it’s worthwhile entertaining the possibility that once again, Shanahan will have to choose who to use as their primary.
49ers Know What They Have in Garoppolo
There are more than a few reasons it’s best the Niners move on from Garoppolo and embrace an unknown future with Lance. Garoppolo has had his chances to lead them to a Super Bowl win. Garoppolo came close to a second Super Bowl appearance in three seasons as the 49ers’ starting quarterback.
However, Garoppolo’s’s already shown all his cards and there’s no element of surprise in his style. He’s also been reticent to speak with media, which one can argue is a sign of poor leadership.
The Niners have been at a crossroads with Garoppolo since before last season when they traded their 2021, 2022 and 2023 first-round picks to select Trey Lance.
Moving Garoppolo Makes Financial Sense
One roadblock standing in their way is clearly financial. This is the last year of Garoppolo’s five-year extension that was agreed to in 2019, and while they owe him $26.95 million in 2022, they can save that by trading him. Garoppolo’s contract was front-loaded from the start to make him cheaper to get rid of should things degenerate, so they’d save $25.55 million in cap space and just have $1.4 million in dead cap if they choose to trade or release him.
However, in order to trade Garoppolo, and with training camps about to start, the 49ers may need to allow him to practice and play a few preseason games to prove to prospective teams there’s still power and worthwhile abilities left in that shoulder.
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Lance Features Elite Athleticism
Another factor in choosing Lance at this point and beyond lies more within his abilities rather than Garoppolo’s deficiencies. Lance spent the last season training and developing, appearing in six games with two starts as a rookie. In those he completed 41 out of 71 passing attempts, yielding over 600 yards with five touchdowns. He also adds a vertical element to the 49ers’ offense.
Lance is also relatively less jaded with regards to the media, which came across well in his pressers. He takes responsibility publicly (and one can surmise privately) and is willing to learn and build on advice and criticism.
Lance Taking First-Team Reps
Some information can also be gathered from the team’s mandatory minicamp earlier this summer where Lance took all the first-team reps. Throughout the practices open to the media, Grant Cohn from Sports Illustrated reported that Lance completed 50 of 67 passes for six touchdown passes and two interceptions. He didn’t even need the support of George Kittle, Danny Gray, Deebo Samuel or Elijah Mitchell to be present.
Rather than relying on his quickness to run from trouble, as he did in his rookie season, Lance appeared more confident and organized in the minicamp. He’s grown quite a bit in just his first season.
Catching the Eye of The Goat
Even Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice is impressed with the young quarterback.
“That dimension to the San Francisco 49ers, that can make defensive coordinators have nightmares,” Rice said in a recent interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “You got to have a mobile quarterback who can get out of the pocket, extend plays and still have the vision and throw it down field, too. And you have that rocket arm where you can throw it deep.”
The Time for Lance is Now
Lance’s lack of experience is a disadvantage and an advantage for the 49ers. But that’s the case with all new quarterbacks and all rookies.
The 49ers certainly wouldn’t have given so much to recruit him and groom him unless they planned on utilizing him to his fullest potential. With Garoppolo’s time is most likely coming to an end with a trade soon, 2022 is the best time to start giving Trey Lance more chances to start.
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu