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Niners trade QB Trey Lance to Cowboys for fourth-round pick

The San Francisco 49ers are trading quarterback Trey Lance to the Dallas Cowboys, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday.

The 49ers will receive a 2024 fourth-round pick in exchange for Lance, per NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero.

The Niners, who traded three first-round picks to Miami to move up to select Lance No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, announced earlier in the week that Lance would be the team's No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart behind Brock Purdy and Sam Darnold after the latter won the competition for the backup role.

"Really hard day, such a wonderful young man," 49ers general manager John Lynch said Friday night during the broadcast of San Francisco's preseason game. "We took a shot and it didn't work out. We own that. We take accountability for it. But I think, as I think you guys do, his story is still very much unwritten. I'm excited for Trey. Dallas stepped up and really wanted him and they came after him. And I think it's going to be a great landing spot for him. I can tell everybody, it wasn't for lack of effort on Trey's part or on our part, that it didn't work. Circumstances took hold and he struggled through injuries and this team's ready to win. We like our quarterback room. We like Brock Purdy a lot, we like Sam Darnold and we like Brandon Allen. So we wish Trey all the best in Dallas. We'll always care about that young man and admire his work ethic and the person that he is."

Head coach Kyle Shanahan said after the announcement that he still believed the young QB could find success "with us or someone else ever in the future." On Friday, Shanahan said Lance desired to have a chance at being a No. 2 elsewhere, and the Niners found more interest than they anticipated.

"He told us that he would like another opportunity to go somewhere where he had a chance to be the No. 2," Shanahan told reporters after Friday's game. "We thought we got some good deals for him; there was a number of teams involved. To end up getting the fourth was a little better than we anticipated and clears up a lot of money and allows a better situation for him, too." 

Having played just eight games in two years for the 49ers, Lance competed in the fewest games by a top-five pick for the team he debuted with since the start of the common draft era 1967, per NFL Research.

Now, Lance will have a fresh start in Dallas.

San Francisco will only recoup a fraction of the value it sent to Miami by dealing the player who was expected to be the future of the franchise to Dallas.

Lance's opportunities to start for the Niners were limited, with injuries partially to blame. He broke his finger and sprained his knee in his first campaign, and then broke his ankle just two games into the 2022 season, taking him out for the year and continuing a chain of events that opened the door for current starter Purdy to take over.

Overall Lance, who was originally slated to play in the Niners' preseason finale versus the Los Angeles Chargers, is 2-2 as a starter, finishing his tenure in the Bay Area with 797 passing yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions.

With a new destination solidified, the question now is how Lance will fit into the Cowboys' existing depth chart. Dak Prescott is still the starter in Dallas, and behind him sit backup Cooper Rush and Will Grier. Lance is expected to be the team's third-string signal-caller, per Rapoport, with the opportunity to develop into more. Still only 23 years old, Lance has a new team that's taking a low-price chance he could develop into something special, as was initially predicted of him.

He will be due $6.25 million fully guaranteed over the next two seasons, Rapoport noted, with a fifth-year option still available to the Cowboys if the situation presents itself.

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