Trey Lance Trade Evaluation: Cowboys Acquire Promising Backup QB, 49ers Secure Fourth-Round Pick

Trey Lance’s tenure with the San Francisco 49ers has come to a close. Mere days after his demotion, the 49ers made a deal with the Dallas Cowboys, trading Lance for a 2024 fourth-round draft pick. This transaction was confirmed by Jonathan Jones, the Lead NFL Insider at CBS Sports.

In exchange for Lance, who was the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, San Francisco gains valuable draft assets. On the other hand, the Cowboys acquire a 23-year-old quarterback, potentially to serve as backup to their starter, Dak Prescott.

The signs were evident that Lance’s role in San Francisco was diminishing when he was relegated to third-string, trailing behind Brock Purdy and Sam Darnold. Prior to being traded to Dallas, Lance was set to participate in the 49ers’ third preseason game against the Chargers.

Lance, who faced an injury after his initial two starts last season, managed four games over his first two years with the 49ers, yielding mixed outcomes. The team achieved a 2-2 record in those matches, during which Lance completed 55% of his passes, tallying five touchdowns and three interceptions. Notably, Lance was thrust into action last year due to Jimmy Garoppolo’s season-ending injury.

As reported by The Athletic, the trade has allowed the 49ers to free up $940,000 in salary-cap space for 2023 and $5.3 million for 2024. Dallas is now responsible for Trey Lance’s entire guaranteed contract.

Over three decades ago, the 49ers made a puzzling trade involving pass rusher Charles Haley, who joined the Cowboys. Haley’s eventual Hall of Fame status significantly impacted the Cowboys’ success, including victories over the 49ers in the subsequent NFC Championship Games. It remains intriguing to observe if history will draw parallels between Lance’s trade and the events of Friday night.

Assessing the immediate impact of the trade, which sent ripples through the NFL during the preseason’s final weekend:

49ers: B- The 49ers are deserving of credit for swiftly finding a trade partner and obtaining decent draft capital in return. Acquiring a fourth-round pick is indeed noteworthy, particularly considering they traded a quarterback with a 54.9 completion percentage who had been relegated to third-string. However, the decision to trade Lance just two years after selecting him as the third overall pick reflects poorly on San Francisco. This perspective is amplified when considering the caliber of players available at that draft position, such as Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, Jaycee Horn, Patrick Surtain II, Devonta Smith, Justin Fields, and Micah Parsons.

Cowboys: B+ This grade might seem generous, given Lance’s unproven status and the 49ers’ apparent lack of confidence. Nevertheless, a change of scenery could potentially reignite Lance’s latent talent, especially under the guidance of Mike McCarthy in Dallas. Working alongside Prescott provides Lance with an optimal mentor. In an ideal scenario, Lance becomes a capable backup who can step up and perform when needed. Conversely, if Lance’s potential doesn’t materialize, the Cowboys will have sacrificed a significant draft pick that could have addressed other roster needs.