CEO Jed York welcomed the next 49ers starting quarterback to Santa Clara over the weekend.
And his message was simple: No pressure.
Well, no pressure — yet.
The 49ers traded up to the No. 3 overall pick, where they selected North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance.
He is the heir apparent to Jimmy Garoppolo, who remains atop the team’s depth chart. And York said he is fine if Garoppolo remains as coach Kyle Shanahan’s starter for a year — or even two.
“We’ve talked about this internally,” York said on 49ers Talk. “If we’re in a situation where Jimmy goes out and takes us to a Super Bowl again and has an MVP-caliber season, and does it again, there are worse dilemmas to be in. And Jimmy certainly has the ability to do that.
“Knowing it’s the most important position in sports, and it’s great to have a guy that you do believe in and has gotten you to a Super Bowl. So you don’t have to put the weight of the world on a rookie, whoever it was we were going to choose. And now that we know Trey is here, you don’t have to put the weight of the world on that kid’s shoulders. And he can grow into that position.”
York talked about the future of the team’s quarterback situation from the perspective of finances.
If the 49ers were to move on from Garoppolo now, the organization would save approximately $25 million over both of the next two seasons. That money could be invested into extensions for such players as Fred Warner, Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel, Mike McGlinchey and the re-signings of some players next offseason.
The 10 top-paid quarterbacks in the NFL average $38.4 million per season in salary and bonuses. As the No. 3 overall pick, Lance will sign a contract with the 49ers that pays him a total of $34.1 million over four seasons. The 49ers could have Lance under contractual control through 2025 with the fifth-year option.
Once Garoppolo is no longer with the team, the 49ers figure to have the financial benefits of starting a quarterback who is still playing under a manageable rookie contract.
“And even if he (Lance) doesn’t play for two years, we still have an extra $100 million to put back into our team on top of whatever we would have for free agency for the next five years,” York said.
“It’s really an investment in the team of how do you want to build this thing.”
Lance turns 21 on Sunday. His story will not be written this year or next year. The 49ers want to set up Lance and the entire organization for long-term success.
York referenced Aaron Rodgers, whom the Green Bay Packers selected in the first round of the 2005 draft when Brett Favre was on the team. Rodgers never attempted more than 30 passes in any of his first three NFL seasons. He took over as the full-time starter in 2008, and the Packers were 6-10 in that first season.
York said it is important to maintain perspective and patience.
“If he doesn’t play until he’s 23, but he’s got a 15-plus year career …” York said of Lance. “There were rumors about a guy, and obviously Kyle talked about trading for Aaron. How long did Aaron sit? Two or three years before he played? And, again, I want to make sure that we do everything we can to make sure that position is the best it can possibly be in the NFL.”
The best-case scenario for the 49ers might actually be if Garoppolo excels this season and Lance only steps on the field as the full-time starter when he is comfortable, confident and completely ready for the challenge.
“We’re trying to build out a team that can compete for a championship today and compete for a championship over a period of time,” York said.
“If he’s the best player, then he would play. And if he’s not ready to do it, yet, we’re not going to put that on his shoulders and whether that’s Trey or whether that’s anybody else, we want to make sure there’s competition throughout the team.”