For weeks, the biggest question surrounding the San Francisco 49ers involved who the team would draft with its newly-acquired third overall pick.
Now that Trey Lance has answered that query, the next big question is obvious: When will 49ers fans see the 20-year-old on the field?
If 49ers owner and CEO Jed York is to be believed, it could be two more seasons before Lance, a rookie out of North Dakota State University, sees the gridiron on a regular basis.
Lance Could Be Sidelined For up to Two Years, 49ers Owner Says
A learned fan might believe the theoretical sidelining of Lance for up to two years would be a move based on the fact that the quarterback was drafted after his redshirt sophomore season with just 17 FCS starts to his name. York told NBC Sports Bay Area last week that Lance’s lack of experience is part of the equation.
However, he added that to understand the complications the 49ers face at quarterback, an observer has to consider both Lance and current starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo as investments.
“Just rough math, over a five-year period, you’re talking about a rookie quarterback contract versus a veteran,” York said “I don’t know what the quarterback market is going to be next offseason. But just looking at where we’re at now, it’s roughly about $150 million in cap savings.”
“So, for us, if you invest $25 or $50 million into your rookie to get them ready then to me, we’re investing in the long-term future of our team,” the 49ers owner continued. “And you never want to put somebody out there, especially a guy who you heard the sort of parlance about Trey, (that) he hasn’t played as much.”
49ers Now View Garoppolo as an Insurance Policy
Garoppolo is under contract through the next two seasons. He is set to make $24.1 million in base salary next year, with minor bonuses likely to push that to the brink of $25 million, according to Spotrac. His base salary and potential total cash hit will increase by approximately $100K and $600K, respectively, two years from now.
Garoppolo is 22-8 in three seasons with the 49ers and was under center for the team’s entire run to the Super Bowl in 2019. Oddsmakers believe a healthy San Francisco squad will contend in its division and for the entire NFC next year even if Lance does not take a snap — with win projections ranging from 10 to 10.5 games before the NFL Draft commenced on Thursday, April 29.
“I want to make sure that we do everything we can to make sure that (the quarterback) position is the best it can possibly be in the NFL,” York said. “And even if he doesn’t play for two years, we still have an extra $100 million to put back into our team on top of whatever we would have over free agency over the next five years.”
Another possibility exists. Despite York’s potential plans, Lance may be forced onto the field well before he is actually ready. Garoppolo’s health has been an issue, sidelining him for more than one-third of the 49ers games since signing with the team three years ago.
Analyst Lance Zierlein, of the NFL Network, said more of such injury misfortune this season might actually prove valuable for both Lance and the 49ers.
“You could have two straight years of not playing football,” Zierlein said Friday, according to a 49ers WEBZONE report. “What does that mean to this player’s development?”
If Garoppolo were to get hurt, Lance would be next in line. And fans may not tolerate forfeiting the season in favor of Lance’s development. Other quarterbacks currently on the 49ers roster include Josh Rosen, Nate Sudfeld and Josh Johnson.