Even if the San Francisco 49ers hold onto Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason, the Trey Lance era starts now.
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler said Lance has "got indications" from the team that he'll be the starter in 2022 regardless of Garoppolo's status:
"The market hasn't been overly hot right now, largely because of Garoppolo's shoulder surgery. Teams don't know when he'll be able to throw; it might be later in the summer. And so, can he pass a physical? These are questions that teams are sort of asking right now. We mentioned the Panthers earlier in relation to [Baker Mayfield]; they've done their homework on Garoppolo too. They've looked at all options, and Garoppolo is one. So that's something to watch for down the road. Right now, San Francisco is prepared to hold on to that $26 million salary, at least as a placeholder for now. They believe they can do all of their business with draft picks and free agents until they sort all of this out.
"Meanwhile, Trey Lance has been working out in the Bay Area. I'm told that he's got indications, at least informal indications from the team, that he'll be the guy next year. He's set to be that. Now, whether that means that they would still keep Garoppolo and that could change the dynamic, possibly. But right now, Lance is going to be the starter."
That Lance is penciled in as the starter should come as no surprise. The 49ers didn't trade a boatload of picks a year ago to move up to No. 3 overall and draft Lance without being 100 percent certain they want to build their future around him. As steady as Garoppolo has been during his time with the 49ers, there's a cap on their offensive ceiling as long as he's taking the snaps.
Lance is a higher-variance option but one who could develop into one of the game's best dual-threat quarterbacks. He has every physical tool necessary to be a dominant runner and passer, and a year of learning behind Garoppolo likely allowed him the time necessary to work on catching up to NFL pacing.
The 49ers aren't going to give Garoppolo away; they clearly value his presence, even in a backup capacity. He's been good enough to lead them to the NFC Championship Game in two of the last three seasons, even if he's rarely the actual reason the 49ers win games.
Offseason surgery hasn't helped matters, with teams unsure of when Garoppolo will be ready to report to camp. It's possible a team is willing to give up a Day 2 pick once the April 28 draft starts, but we can probably throw out any hope the 49ers had of landing a first-round selection.