Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan’s desire to trade up for Trey Lance influenced by recent NFC West moves

Jun 16, 2021 at 4:24 PM--

Kyle Shanahan would never have considered trading multiple first-round picks for a single player in the past. Those selections are seen as far too valuable. The San Francisco 49ers head coach changed his mind this offseason. The team is without a first-round pick until 2024, thanks to the trade up to No. 3 overall to select quarterback Trey Lance.

Recent NFC West maneuvers influenced Shanahan to ease up on his desire to keep a tight grasp on the 49ers' first-round picks. He's watched as other teams in the division were more aggressive in acquiring players they felt might be the missing pieces to their roster puzzles.

"Seattle just traded two first-round picks away for a safety (Jamal Adams), a very good one," Shanahan recently told Tim Kawakami of The Athletic. "The Rams had done it for a corner (Jalen Ramsey). They've done it for a quarterback (Matthew Stafford). The three years prior to that, they did it every single year for a receiver, whether I think it was Brandin Cooks, Sammy Watkins (for a second-round pick).

"So you're watching all this stuff. That's why ... I didn't see it as monumental as everyone else did. Now, I probably would've 10 years ago, but I've kind of watched people make these decisions the last few years, and it's grown on me. You know what? It isn't the biggest risk in the history of football like I always thought growing up, just watching the success the Rams and Seattle have had."

The biggest difference is that those other teams made the aggressive moves for proven players. You never know what you might get from the draft. However, Shanahan fell in love with the idea of adding Lance to his offense in January. While the 49ers already have a starter in Jimmy Garoppolo, the coach was excited about what the dual-threat aspect of Lance's game could do for years to come.

Plus, Shanahan knows how valuable a good quarterback is and how difficult it is to find one. There was a worry that Lance wouldn't be there at San Francisco's pre-trade draft slot — the No. 12 overall pick. The coach wasn't willing to miss out on Lance, and the opportunity was there to make sure he didn't.

"So when we knew we could move up to get a quarterback, it pumped me up, especially to do it early," Shanahan continued. "Then you can kind of lay out a plan and which direction you want to go, whether it's free agency and the rest of the draft. Kind of not just have an idea of what you're going to do this year but also doing it in the years to come."

There is also the cost-benefit of having a quarterback on a rookie deal. It allows for up to five years of manageable cost. Yes, San Francisco still has Garoppolo and his hefty salary. However, the veteran quarterback is essentially on a year-to-year deal at this point, and the 49ers can transition to Lance and move on from Garoppolo whenever they feel the time is right.

"The salary cap's a huge, big part of all this," Shanahan said. "(General manager) John (Lynch) and I had a huge plan trying to build this team, and we were going to go into our fourth year building a team, expecting to have a $230 million cap, and then all of a sudden it's $[182.5] million.

"So having $50 million just kind of taken out of what your plans have been over three years changes a lot of stuff. And then when you have an opportunity to get a rookie quarterback and the way that is with the contracts, [we] just felt it could give us a chance to build this right again over these next four years, and it just makes it easier to do it."

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