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Just under two and a half years after trading three first-round picks to make quarterback Trey Lance the the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers traded Lance to the Dallas Cowboys for a fourth-round pick, and a fresh start.

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The trade came two days after head coach Kyle Shanahan told Lance that the battle for QB2 had gone to Sam Darnold, and Lance asked permission to be absent from that’s day’s practice.

“Kyle came up to my office and just said, ‘Hey, as we started talking, Trey’s, like he always is, he’s all in,’” said general manager John Lynch. “But he did suggest and ask, ‘Hey, if we could find the right opportunity that he would appreciate that.’ He also said he’d be here and continue to compete. And I had a chance then to talk to Trey, talk to Trey’s agent, and I gave him my word that I’d look and see what’s out there. So, we started that process and it culminated today with Dallas happening.”

Lance started four games for the 49ers, played in eight and suffered three significant injuries in his tenure with the 49ers. The first was a broken finger in a 2021 preseason game, the second game was a sprained that came against the Arizona Cardinals when he was starting in place of the then-injured Jimmy Garoppolo, and the third – the one that really ended his career in San Francisco – was a broken ankle that came early in Week 2 of 2022.

“I do think Trey needs an opportunity to play more,” Shanahan said. “The opportunities he’s had here, when he has had those two opportunities, he’s gotten hurt in both of them and kind of missed that window a little bit. Gave an opportunity for someone else to do it. That person did it and stayed healthy for those seven games and showed us something that we’re confident in. Trey kind of needs that again. He didn’t get that here…”

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2022 was the year he was the team’s QB1, the year he was to develop, but the injury derailed it all.

“We thought we were aligned as a team to win right away when we did it with him,” Shanahan said. “We knew it would take him time, but we also had to make a decision where we were going to go with our team over a two-year window. We felt if we could get a rookie quarterback or a guy on a rookie deal who could help us win, man, we could put a good team around him.

“We took a shot with Trey because we believed he could. We knew it would take some time, but in the meantime, we were going to have a pretty good team. The time that we did give him when he had his ops, he missed those and those weren’t his fault. I don’t, they weren’t our fault. That’s what happens in football. And when you take a risk on someone who does need to develop and does need some of that time and then he misses that time and we are where we’re at right now, it is kind of what it is.”

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Under any other circumstances, this whole thing would seem like a disaster – at least in football terms – and it sort of still does, but the 49ers have a quarterback on a rookie deal in Brock Purdy and Purdy has proven he can win.

“Fortunately, we’ve been able to continue to grow this team, to make this team better,” Lynch said. “And we were very fortunate for Brock to become what he’s become. Now he’s got to continue to do it. But, the early returns are good and, everything from his rookie year to the somewhat, I won’t say miraculous, but he made a hell of a return and with some hurdles in there, starting surgery late and all that. For him to be where he is at and we had to open our eyes and say, okay, he’s cleared, but is he ready? And he kept showing us that he was, and then the other things transpired that led us to where we’re at.”

So the Trey Lance era in Santa Clara comes to an end. It did not work out the way the 49ers hoped. It did not work out the way Lance hoped. But hopefully the fresh start will be good for the young QB, and hopefully he’ll have the opportunity to play and develop, because, ultimately, no one knows who Lance the quarterback is just yet.

“I love Trey, everything that he’s done for this organization and obviously for myself,” Purdy said. “…[H]e’s been a real one and helped me come into the league and welcome me with open arms and showed me the ropes to this whole thing. So can’t tell you how grateful I am for him and to have him in my life and to be here with him. So forever grateful for Trey…[H]appy for him that he’s able to go into a good situation and we all feel like it’s a good fit. But at the end of the day, I can’t say how thankful I am to have played and been a teammate with Trey.”