Vikings Could Enter the Trey Lance Sweepstakes

Minnesota Fans Are
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports.

A succession plan for quarterback Kirk Cousins has to be found in the next 13 months. In this year’s draft or 2024, the Vikings must find their future quarterback unless the team wants to extend Cousins’ deal next offseason. He will turn 36 years old before the beginning of the 2024 campaign.

QB prospects like Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud would cost the team a boatload of draft picks, as it would require a big trade package for them to land in Minnesota. More likely-to-be-available players, like Tanner McKee and Hendon Hooker, have some red flags or aren’t as likely to succeed in the NFL. For that reason, acquiring a player via trade is a possibility.

Vikings Could Enter the Trey Lance Sweepstakes

Vikings Could Enter the Trey Lance Sweepstakes
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

One of the potentially available passers is Trey Lance. The 49ers selected Lance in the 2021 draft class after giving up three first-round picks and some change. Two years later, Lance hasn’t lived up to the hype that brought him to the third overall pick in a loaded QB group only behind Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson.

Lance’s availability doesn’t only have to do with himself but also with Brock Purdy, the 7th round pick in 2022 who had to fill in for Lance and his backup Jimmy Garoppolo after their injuries — and led the team all the way into the NFC Championship game. His rise to stardom could make Lance obsolete in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

Nevertheless, the 49ers traded up for Lance after Garoppolo once again didn’t play a full season to finally fix the spot, and they picked Lance over Mac Jones and Justin Fields because he had some traits NFL teams seek.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports.

Lance was viewed as a raw prospect with great potential because of his dual-threat ability. The quarterback started only one season for NDSU in 2019. His 2020 season was limited to only one game because of COVID-19.

In that one season, Lance threw for 2,786 yards, 28 touchdowns, and didn’t throw a single interception. Lance added 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. His ability to make big plays, take care of the ball, and scramble made him the third overall pick despite the small sample size.

To start his NFL career, he lost the competition for the starting spot to Jimmy Garoppolo. He appeared in six games, mainly as a gadget player who came in to run the ball. Lance replaced Garoppolo in two games as the starter when he was hurt and began the 2022 campaign at the top of the depth chart.

Unfortunately, Lance fractured his ankle in the season’s second game and required surgery. His campaign ended in that game against the Seattle Seahawks.

He threw for 797 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions in his limited snaps in the two years with the 49ers and rushed for 235 yards and another score.

Wildcard Playoff Predictions
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

After the injury, Garoppolo was supposed to replace him for the remainder of the season, but he suffered a broken foot and also missed time. Brock Purdy, the last pick of the 2022 draft, had to come into the game.

Purdy played marvelous in the 2022 season with excellent control of the offense, granted, an offense filled with wide-open receivers, schemed by Shanahan, and a brilliant rushing scheme.

Shanahan should know the limitations and the potential of either QB. He may intend to hand the franchise keys to Purdy, meaning Lance could be available. The 49ers also signed Sam Darnold as a new backup.

During the NFL’s owner meeting, 49ers GM John Lynch talked about the situation:

I think Brock earned the right with the way he played that he’s probably the leader in the clubhouse at that. I’ll let Kyle [Shanahan] make those kinds of decisions but I know when we talk, Brock has probably earned the right to be the guy. If we were to line up, he’d probably take that first snap.

Of course, that’s not a final decision. However, it’s noteworthy that the team doesn’t elect to be vaguer over five months before the season begins and four months until training camp, especially because Purdy underwent elbow surgery.

Lynch also chatted about Lance:

We’ve always said we don’t care where you were drafted, if you were drafted, that’s always been our stance. It’s what we believe in. I think both things can be true. We’re still very excited about Trey but I think the way Brock played, he probably has earned that right to be the guy. But it’s certainly a competition, we’ll always have that. Again, these are decisions Kyle makes but I know in our discussions, this is the way we’re talking.

No GM would criticize one of his players in March, so that should be taken with a grain of salt, but the 49ers apparently plan to go forward with both QBs on the roster. If Lance becomes a distraction, and he won’t be pleased with the potential of spending another season as the backup, a trade would immediately become more imminent.

We like Trey on our team right now. Kyle and I always joke we’d trade each other if someone would give us a good enough deal. So, we listen to anything, but we like Trey on our team. We’re very excited about the way he’s progressing, about his opportunity. I think he’s chomping at the bit to get back out there, get back under center and be healthy again.

John Lynch, 49ers GM

The most important parts of that statement are right now, and we listen to anything. It seems more likely that Lance could be available, potentially for the Vikings, via trade.

Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota could opt to send draft picks in return, which is acceptable since picking a successor for Cousins in the draft would cost draft capital as well. Perhaps a second-round selection is a fair trade compensation which is good value for a former top-three pick.

Another popular theory is that Kirk Cousins should be reunited with Shanahan. The two worked together in Washington when Cousins was the backup quarterback and Shanahan was the offensive coordinator and the driving force behind the draft selection.

An interesting wrinkle is that Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was a part of the 49ers organization between 2013-2019 before he joined the Browns and subsequently the Vikings. The two GMs know each other, which should help facilitate a trade.

If the Vikings indeed acquire Lance, he would be Cousins’ backup for a year but would be assured the future starting QB spot, unlike with the 49ers. He is still under contract for two more seasons and a potential fifth-year option. The upside is obvious. Lance is still only 22 years old and was talented enough to be the third overall pick, but injuries denied him from showing what he could do in his second season.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt