D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Barnwell predicts when Trey Lance will start for the 49ers

May 17, 2021 at 11:04 AM--

There are two best-case scenarios for the San Francisco 49ers. The first is the plan with which they are entering the 2021 season. Jimmy Garoppolo is the Week 1 starter at quarterback, leads the championship-caliber roster all season, and rookie Trey Lance can sit and learn for a year.

The second is that Lance asserts himself as a realistic starting quarterback in training camp and forces the 49ers into a difficult decision. Two starting-quality quarterbacks are a nice dilemma to have for any NFL team. San Francisco will have options, too. It can hold onto Garoppolo, knowing that he has a solid backup should he suffer another in-season injury. Of course, that would mean paying him to once again be on the sidelines or watching from a luxury box. The veteran quarterback is due nearly $25 million this season.

"Having made it past the draft, the 49ers don't need to rush into any decision with Garoppolo," wrote ESPN's Bill Barnwell. "The veteran is owed just under $25 million for 2021, but all of his money is unguaranteed until Week 1. San Francisco is under the cap and can afford to pay Garoppolo that cash, but the real value in moving on from him would be in creating space that it can roll over into future years, when it will have to re-sign linebacker Fred Warner and edge rusher Nick Bosa while still surrounding Lance with talent."

Garoppolo has missed 23 games over the past three seasons. Before being traded from the New England Patriots to the 49ers, he suffered a separated shoulder in 2016. In 2018, Garoppolo went down during Week 3 with a torn ACL. He was limited to six games last season due to ankle injuries.

Garoppolo's injury history is why Barnwell predicts Week 3 as Lance's potential first start.

"It's impossible to predict injuries, but Garoppolo hasn't been able to make it out of September three times in four years as a Week 1 starter," Barnwell explained. "The 49ers play the Eagles in Week 2, which will put Shanahan's team up against a defensive line that ranked fourth in adjusted sack rate a year ago. If Garoppolo can't make it through that game without an injury, Lance would be in line to take over and make his first start in Week 3. His debut there would come against the Packers in prime time, so no big deal."

Head coach Kyle Shanahan expects Garoppolo to be San Francisco's Week 1 starter. That will likely be the plan heading into training camp. The coach doesn't foresee a competition breaking out between Garoppolo and Lance.

"Jimmy's definitely our starter right now," Shanahan said earlier this month. "Right now, there isn't competition because I don't believe Trey would be in a position to compete. Jimmy is too good of a player, has too good of a grasp of our offense. He'll start out OTAs running, like he's done before, and he'll be the starting quarterback."

That doesn't mean Shanahan wouldn't welcome a competition, though.

Said Shanahan after drafting Lance in April: "[I]f it turns into a competition, it turns into a competition. I'd be excited about that, if he showed he was ready for it and stuff. But we know where Jimmy is at."

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