Trey Lance, the quarterback who was drafted third overall by the San Francisco 49ers in 2021, has been traded to the Dallas Cowboys on Friday. The move came as a surprise to many, as Lance was expected to be the future of the 49ers franchise. However, after a disappointing rookie season and an injury-plagued second year, Lance was deemed expendable by the 49ers, who have found their new starter in Brock Purdy.
Lance will join the Cowboys as a backup to Dak Prescott, who is coming off a stellar season that led Dallas to the NFC East title and a playoff berth. Prescott signed a four-year, $160 million contract extension with the Cowboys in March, making him one of the highest-paid players in the league.
One person who is happy for Lance is his former teammate and mentor, Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo, who was traded from the 49ers to the Las Vegas Raiders in the offseason, spoke highly of Lance in an interview with NFL Network’s Andrew Siciliano on NFL Total Access.
“Excited for Trey. Just a new opportunity for him,” Garoppolo said. “Things didn’t work out in San Francisco for whatever reasons, but glad that he gets another shot, man. This league’s all about opportunities, and when you get a fresh one like that, you’ve just got to take advantage of it.”
Garoppolo knows a thing or two about changing teams and dealing with uncertainty at the quarterback position. He spent four seasons as Tom Brady’s backup with the New England Patriots before being traded to the 49ers in 2017. He led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in 2019, but then faced competition from Lance, who was drafted to replace him. Garoppolo reclaimed his starting job after Lance suffered an ankle injury in 2022, but then he also got hurt and lost his spot to Purdy.
A brotherly bond between Garoppolo and Lance
Despite the awkward situation they were in, Garoppolo and Lance developed a close relationship during their time together in San Francisco. Garoppolo said he always supported Lance and tried to help him grow as a player and a person.
“Trey’s a brother of mine, man, so like I said before, I’m always pulling for him,” Garoppolo said. “I think he’s got a bright future in this league. Dude’s got talent. Just got to get him out there.”
Garoppolo also said he did not blame 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan for how things turned out for him and Lance. Shanahan recently admitted that he felt he failed Lance as a coach and did not put him in the best position to succeed.
“I don’t know how the whole thing shook out and everything,” Garoppolo said. “While I was there, Kyle was gonna call the plays for you. You’ve just got to go up there and execute them to the best of your ability.”
Garoppolo is now looking forward to his new chapter with the Raiders, where he will compete with Derek Carr for the starting job. He said he is excited to play for head coach Jon Gruden and offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who he believes will bring out the best in him.
A fresh start for Lance with the Cowboys
Lance will also have a chance to start over with the Cowboys, where he will learn from Prescott and head coach Mike McCarthy. McCarthy is known for developing quarterbacks such as Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn during his tenure with the Green Bay Packers.
Lance has a lot of potential and upside as a dual-threat quarterback who can make plays with his arm and his legs. He had a stellar college career at North Dakota State, where he led the Bison to a national championship in 2019 and threw 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
However, he also has a lot of room for improvement and refinement as a passer. He struggled with accuracy and decision-making in his limited action with the 49ers, completing only 54% of his passes for 1,267 yards, seven touchdowns and nine interceptions in 10 games (six starts).
Lance will have to be patient and wait for his opportunity with the Cowboys, as Prescott is firmly entrenched as the starter. However, he could also benefit from sitting behind Prescott and learning from him. Prescott is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and has overcome adversity and injury throughout his career.
Lance could also see some playing time as a gadget player or in certain packages that utilize his mobility and athleticism. The Cowboys have experimented with using backup quarterbacks in creative ways in the past, such as Tony Romo, Kellen Moore and Cooper Rush.
Lance will have to prove himself to his new team and his new fans, who might have mixed feelings about his arrival. Some might see him as a potential successor to Prescott, while others might see him as a wasted asset or a threat to Prescott’s status.
Lance will have to earn the trust and respect of his teammates and coaches, who have high expectations for him. He will also have to show that he can handle the pressure and scrutiny that comes with playing for one of the most popular and polarizing teams in the league.
Lance has a lot of challenges and opportunities ahead of him with the Cowboys. He will have to work hard and stay focused on his goals. He will also have to remember the words of encouragement from his former teammate and friend, Garoppolo.
“Everyone has their own path and everything like that. It’s never going to be easy, but it’s how you come out the other end of it. So I’m always excited for him, man. He’s a brother of mine. Always pulling for him.”