The news of the day as the NFL gets ready for the third week of preseason games is that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance could (or is) on the trading block.
That, in and of itself is extraordinary.
San Fransisco traded the 12th overall pick and a third-round pick in 2021, a first-round pick in 2022, and a first-round pick in 2023 to move from 12th to third in the 2021 NFL Draft. They used that third overall pick to select Lance out of North Dakota State. For a team to give up on that that level of investment after a little over a year is unheard of.
The news was reported by the likes of Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, suggesting a high degree of confidence that the 49ers are exploring trade options.
The #49ers are naming Sam Darnold their No. 2 quarterback and the team is exploring options with Trey Lance, sources tell me and @RapSheet.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 23, 2023
Darnold will back up Brock Purdy, while the future of Lance — the No. 3 overall pick in 2021 — is unclear. pic.twitter.com/HxXQkfM6nq
Could Joe Schoen and the New York Giants put in a bid?
Let me get this out there before I start to make the case on why they could (or should): In all likelihood, it ain’t happening. The Giants might do their due diligence, but if I had to bet (and I don’t bet), I’d say that Lance winds up on a team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Atlanta Falcons.
Let’s indulge in some theory-crafting for a minute. It’s still the offseason (well, preseason), so why not?
I absolutely expect the Giants to do their due diligence and call up the 49ers and check on Lance’s price. GM Joe Schoen, Assistant GM Brandon Brown, and the rest of the Giants’ brain trust look for every opportunity to improve the Giants roster. They have already shown a willingness to exploit market inefficiencies to find value wherever they can. It costs them nothing to kick the tires on Lance and there’s potential gain.
So what could the 49ers’ No. 3 quarterback, who seems to be an all-time draft bust, possibly bring to the Giants’ roster?
To start with, let’s look at the Giants’ quarterback depth chart.
Daniel Jones is the entrenched starter, backed up by 34-year-old Tyrod Taylor and UDFA rookie Tommy DeVito. Taylor is in the final year of his contract with the Giants and will be a free agent after this year and will be 35 before the start of the 2024 season. He’s played well-enough through camp and preseason and the Giants could certainly extend him for another year or two relatively cheaply.
I’ve remarked a couple times that DeVito is fun and has traits that which the team could build upon. He’s athletic, is composed when the play breaks down, and has solid arm talent.
All that said, Lance will be just 24 at the conclusion of his rookie deal (not counting the fifth-year option), and has significantly better traits that DeVito. Lance has prototypical size at 6-foot-4, 224 pounds, and is a very good athlete with near-elite arm talent.
The Giants feature a lot of backfield movement in their offense, giving the quarterback a host of roll-outs and boot-legs, as well as the green light to run if his primary reads aren’t there. That style of offense plays to the strengths of Jones, Taylor, DeVito, and would play to the strengths of Lance.
Lance only has one full season of starting experience in college, albeit at North Dakota State (though they’re the “Alabama of the FCS”). But in that year he had a 66.9 percent completion rate for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns to 0 (zero) interceptions. He also had 169 carries for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns. That’s only one season, but 42 touchdowns and almost 4,000 yards with just no turnovers (he had just one, an interception, in his college career) is tough to ignore.
The NFL world saw the 49ers themselves weather the loss of Jimmy Garoppolo and Lance himself, only to make the NFC Championship Game with Brock Purdy under center. We know that the NFL is a copy-cat league, and that had to set each of the 31 other executives to examining their roster to see if they’re offense could weather the loss of their top two quarterbacks. Not only does that call the line and skill positions into question, but the depth at quarterback as well. Does your season have to be over if your starting QB goes down?
There’s also the (potential) influence of Brandon Brown on the Giants’ front office. Brown was with the Philadelphia Eagles when they won the Super Bowl with Nick Foles, after Carson Wentz was lost for the season. Not only does he understand the value of a backup quarterback to a team’s in-season success, but also as an off-season asset. The Eagles’ organization has a history of flipping backup quarterbacks for draft assets.
The Giants could potentially trade a (late) third-round pick for Lance, develop him under Mike Kafka and Brian Daboll, then move him for a second-round pick. Even a future compensatory third-round pick would be of use for a team that’s shown a knack for acquiring talent in the middle to late rounds.
Respect where its due, Eagles have shown a frustrating tendency to get the better of trades, as well as manipulate the draft and salary cap to their benefit. Trading for Lance, potentially getting use out of him, then flipping him for future assets, would be a very “Eagles” move.
Will the Giants do it? Unlikely (in the extreme), but there’s at least a case there to be made why they might consider it.