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Sam Darnold tabbed as 49ers' backup quarterback over Trey Lance

The San Francisco 49ers have named their backup to starting quarterback Brock Purdy -- and it's not the player they once paid a fortune to trade up for.

Sam Darnold will be named the 49ers' QB2 following a strong showing this offseason, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported on Wednesday, per sources.

That means that Trey Lance is currently running third on the depth chart -- and what it means for his future with the team remains to be seen. Lance was reportedly not at 49ers practice on Wednesday, and Rapoport and Pelissero reported that San Francisco is exploring options with the third-year QB.

Purdy suffered a UCL injury in his right (throwing) elbow in the 2022 NFC Championship Game, which prompted the 49ers to add QB depth after Jimmy Garoppolo left for the Raiders in free agency. But Purdy has since been cleared for action and will start Week 1 at the Steelers, having completed his rehab well ahead of schedule.

Darnold, who has been inconsistent in his five NFL seasons with the Jets and Panthers, impressed the 49ers with his work in minicamps and OTAs, running neck and neck with Lance while Purdy's status remained up in the air. The two reserves have carried their competition through the preseason.

Lance started the preseason opener against the Raiders, struggling more than his numbers (10-of-15 passing, 112 yards, TD) might suggest and receiving some luck when an apparent sure interception turned into a 49ers touchdown catch. He played better in the second preseason game against the Broncos but didn't enter until very late in the third quarter.

Like Lance, Darnold threw a TD and a pick against Denver, replacing Purdy after one series and playing well into the second half before Lance came on. In two preseason games, Darnold has completed 16 of 22 passes (72.7%) for 193 yards, while also rushing three times for 18 yards and taking two sacks.

Through two preseason games, Lance has completed 22 of 33 passes (66.7%) for 285 yards, two TDs and one pick. He has taken four sacks and has rushed five times for zero yards.

Will the 49ers keep Lance? The 2021 first-rounder (No. 3 overall) is still only 23 years old but is set to count $9.3 million against the salary cap this year, plus more than $10.8 million in 2024, which is the final year of his rookie deal. Purdy's recent injury concerns, Darnold's career inconsistencies and QB-related roster changes for the 2023 NFL season might prompt them to do so, but it will come at a steep cost.

They could look to trade Lance, either this season or next year, but the 49ers can't expect to recoup what it cost to land him initially. The team traded up from the No. 12 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft all the way to the third overall spot. The Dolphins also received first-round selections in 2022 and 2023, plus a 2022 third-rounder, for the 49ers' right to select Lance.

He's started four games over two seasons, throwing for 797 yards, five TDs and three interceptions and running for 235 yards and another score. But Lance has only completed 54.9% of his passes and struggled in the Week 1 loss at Chicago last year before suffering a season-ending fractured right ankle in Week 2 against the Seahawks.

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