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Which 49ers backup quarterback would you trade?

Ok, let’s talk about quarterbacks. Again.

Guess what? It’s another San Francisco 49ers quarterback discussion. But rather than risk an entire season as a whole, or say one sucks while the other is amazing, I ask a simple question: Assuming Brock Purdy does win out the starting role AND Kyle Shanahan decides this roster isn’t big enough for all three of them, who between Trey Lance and Sam Darnold would you trade?

Now, let’s be transparent here. The 49ers have picked up the phone for Trey Lance calls, but they are not shopping him around. Sam Darnold just signed a 1-year deal so signing then getting traded this early wouldn’t make a lick of sense.

But that market will heat up at the end of the preseason. Quarterbacks get injured and teams get desperate. Remember when Sam Bradford got traded to the Minnesota Vikings after their starter, Teddy Bridgewater went down for the season? All for a 1st round pick? Crazy things happen.

So that brings the question: Which quarterback would you put on the market at preseason’s end?

For me, if Trey Lance were relegated to a backup role, the decision is obvious. If he is beaten by Brock Purdy in a legitimate camp battle and a team is interested, it’s a good way to give him a fresh start. Someone needing a quarterback at that point in the season will be desperate (again, look to the Vikings when Teddy Bridgewater went down which began the Bradford trade). Plus, it gives the 49ers a chance to recoup whatever loss they had in the entire Trey Lance experiment. I doubt they get their first rounders back, but the end of the preseason would be when the market is hot for a signal caller and might net them more than the following offseason.

On the flipside is Sam Darnold. He doesn’t have a fifth-year option, or even a Year 2. It’s just a 1-year deal that’s worth $11.5 million. That’s not terrible for quarterback dollars but it gives the 49ers a capable backup if Trey Lance were traded. On the other hand, Lance knows the offense—Shanahan by extension—while Darnold is learning it. As a backup, even with how awkward it may be, it may be better for the team to hold onto Lance and trade Darnold, though they wouldn’t get near as much. 31 other teams could have given Darnold multiple-year deals and they didn’t. Not to mention if Trey Lance isn’t the starter, it seems weird to do this all over again in 2024.

If the 49ers traded Darnold though they’d get a late pick perhaps and then get to keep their backup on the roster, maybe to restart this madness next year (which by that point, if Purdy was the starter, why are you even entertaining it with Lance’s 5th year option looming).

Of course I’ll play the what-if Purdy as a backup. It seems like there’s going to be legitimate competition but maybe he becomes the odd man out because of his injury or Trey Lance has truly made strides while Purdy hit his ceiling his rookie year (and yes, that’s sarcasm). As a trade candidate, Purdy would net a lot in that situation. In the offseason he’d probably fetch something high also. A second rounder, maybe a first. Not just on ability, but the contract. Any team that got Purdy at preseason’s end would get him for 2023 and two more years after, on the salary the last pick in the draft has. That contract alone would be worth better draft picks given the production you’ve seen out of him. The dude has won just as many playoff games his rookie season that Dak Prescott has won in 7 years.

But we are eliminating Purdy from this. Between Lance and Darnold who would you trade away at preseason’s end?