Ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers traded three first-round picks to select Trey Lance at No. 3 overall, believing the quarterback to be the player who could cement a championship run.
It hasn't worked out that way. Lance played sparingly as a rookie, then was injured in Week 2 last season, missing the remainder of the year.
Down the stretch of the 2022 campaign, Brock Purdy, a seventh-round rookie, entered in place of an injured Jimmy Garoppolo and shined, winning his first seven starts, including two playoff bouts.
Purdy's play has him the leader for the QB1 job in 2023, if he's fully healed from offseason elbow surgery. The dichotomy between Lance, a first-round pick whom the Niners sold the farm to get, and Purdy, who owns the distinction of "Mr. Irrelevant" as the final pick of the 2022 draft, is stark.
Despite Lance's limited action, 49ers CEO Jed York said on Tuesday he doesn't regret the move to draft the quarterback.
"I wouldn't change anything that we've made about the decision with Trey," York said at the Annual League Meeting, via NBC Sports Bay Area. "I think Trey has a chance to be great. But it's a bonus when you get somebody at the end of the seventh round that ends up coming in and being very impactful for your team."
York noted that it's not Lance's fault he hasn't been on the field, suggesting that the cost-controlled nature of the rookie contract still has value to the club.
"You can't worry about, well, Trey hasn't played as many games as we would've liked," York said. "It's not his fault. He got injured.
"When you look at when we drafted him, we wanted to make sure we had a young quarterback on a rookie contract that allows you to be able to say, 'All right, Javon (Hargrave) is kind of a bonus.'"
Lance and Purdy are set to combine to count just over $10.19 million against the salary cap in 2023 -- Lance: $9.301 million; Purdy: $889,253 -- less than what Mitchell Trubisky, for example, will count against the Steelers' cap next season.
"There's a delta in what you're spending on your quarterback versus what somebody else is spending in their quarterback," York said. "And I hope one of these three guys gets a massive, massive extension with the San Francisco 49ers at some point.
"But until then, we're going to make sure we build this thing around a young quarterback with a very team-friendly contract."
Yes, the team-friendly nature of the Niners' QB deals allows them to be flexible. It's better than sinking $100 million into a swing-and-miss on the open market. But that rationalization also missed that San Francisco gave up a chance to get three other players under cost-controlled deals in the Lance trade.
Purdy's injury opened the door for Lance to have a shot at regaining his standing this offseason. But after being anointed the starter last year, he's no longer the favorite to be under center in Week 1 if Purdy is healthy.