The San Francisco 49ers let their intentions be known once they traded up to acquire the No. 3 pick from the Miami Dolphins. General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t hesitate to let the football world know that they would select their QB of the future with the third overall selection.
After a month of speculation, the Niners settled on North Dakota State QB Trey Lance. The 21-year-old only started one game at the FCS level last season, but Lynch and Shanahan said they began to fall in love with Lance back in January.
Once the deal with the Dolphins was complete, everyone wanted to know what it meant for Jimmy Garoppolo. During their media availability following the trade with Miami, Lynch and Shanahan said they intended on keeping Garoppolo for at least next season. But that didn’t stop the rumor mill from becoming flooded in the weeks leading up to the draft.
Many NFL insiders speculated that Garoppolo would be moved at the draft, with teams like the New England Patriots being mentioned as a possible destination. Despite all of the noise, Jimmy G remains on the roster heading into OTAs.
Lynch made an appearance on Colin Cowherd’s TV show and was asked about the process leading up to the trade with the Dolphins and how it impacted Garoppolo (h/t 49ers Web Zone).
“I think Jimmy’s got a really good trust in myself and Kyle,” Lynch said. “I think you earn that, and I think from day one, we’ve been very upfront with Jimmy. When I went to Jimmy, I told him the truth. Like, ‘Look, we have made a decision that we’re going to pursue a quarterback this offseason. You know, Jimmy, when you’ve played, you’ve been tremendous, and the record speaks to that. We feel like there’s room for growth. The biggest thing has been it’s hard to keep you on the field.’ That’s not an easy thing to tell a player, but Jimmy took it tremendously.”
Garoppolo’s difficulty to stay healthy has resulted in two lost seasons for San Francisco over the past three seasons. He has missed 23 starts since 2018. But when he was healthy for an entire season in 2019, the 49ers went 13-3 and were within minutes of winning the Super Bowl.
One reason why some NFL pundits believed Garoppolo would be jettisoned at the draft is his cap hit. Garoppolo is due a base salary of $24.1 million next season. The Niners could have cut Jimmy G with only $2.8 million in dead money and rolled over the rest of the cap space into next season.
But Lynch says that despite the obvious financial gain, the team wanted Garoppolo back.
“And my other commitment was, ‘But here’s the good news, Jimmy. We don’t want you to go anywhere,’” Lynch said. “‘We want you to be here, and our ownership has made the commitment that we can do that. We can fit it in our cap, and we think it’s a good situation for you; probably not the one you ultimately want to hear. I’m sure you want to be the long-term guy. There’s a flip side to that. You still could be.’ Because he’s going to have a chance to compete and earn that job, and we’re just going to let that play out. But Jimmy’s a really good football player.”
Garoppolo appears to be San Francisco’s starter for the time being, but that could certainly change if Lance has a strong showing at training camp and proves he is ready to lead an NFL team.
Lynch says they won’t put a timeframe on when they expect Lance to be ready, but the decision will ultimately be Shanahan’s.
“I don’t know when that time is,” Lynch told Colin Cowherd on Tuesday. “I think we’re going to put both guys out there, open the competition. That will be Kyle’s decision. He’s the coach of this football team. (We’ll) let it kind of play out. But I think the reassuring thing is that we don’t have to rush Trey.
“I think sometimes you get in a situation where that’s the only thing we have that we believe we can go have a great chance to win week in, week out. We know Jimmy can win, and so that provides a nice luxury, a nice situation where we can really protect our investment in Trey.”
The 49ers have a deep roster and should among the playoff contenders next season. After an injury-riddled 2020 campaign, the team is looking to bounce back with players like Nick Bosa, George Kittle and Trent Williams leading the charge.
Because the Niners have a talented squad in place, Lynch says the team is willing to be patient with Lance.
“But the nice luxury that we have is we don’t have to rush it. He can play when he’s ready to give us the best chance, and that will be on Kyle,” Lynch said. “I think it will be fairly obvious when the time’s right, and I think, at that time, he’ll be our guy.”
You can watch the full segment below.