As the 49ers enter a critical offseason, the prevailing belief is that San Francisco will trade veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and fully turn the page to the Trey Lance era.
However, ESPN's Adam Schefter isn't sold on the idea that Garoppolo will 100 percent be on a different team next season.
"I'm just telling you that Trey Lance was probably further behind than people realized," Schefter told Ari Meirov of Pro Football Focus (h/t 49ers Webzone). "Trey Lance is greener than people realized. Trey Lance is going to need more work than people realized. And they have a roster that can win now."
Schefter points to a scenario in which the 49ers are offered a similar return for Garoppolo as the New York Jets got for Sam Darnold last offseason. Would the 49ers be better off sticking with Garoppolo, who led has led them to a Super Bowl berth and two NFC title game appearances in the past three seasons, for one more season or getting a second-round pick and some Day 3 draft capital?
"OK, so let's say they get a two, four, and a six (not necessarily all in this year's draft)," Schefter said. "Now, you're San Francisco. Now you can say, 'Jimmy Garoppolo is unquestionably one of the most popular and respected players in our locker room. Players love playing with him. We have him under contract this year at a very friendly $25 million cap number. And if we play with him this year, and we lose him after this year, we're going to get a third-round comp pick back in return.'
"So, are you better, then, playing the season with Jimmy while getting Trey the training that he still needs? Or are you better trading him for—let's just call it a two, four, and a six? What's the better alternative?"
Of course, all this is predicated on what the trade market is for Garoppolo. That market likely will be determined by which high-profile quarterbacks also are available. If Aaron Rodgers and/or Russell Wilson demand a trade then Garoppolo's trade value decreases. But if Garoppolo is the best option on a thin market then the 49ers could potentially trade Garoppolo for 130 cents on the dollar. A move they would have to make.
Schefter was clear to note the 49ers are pleased with Lance's progress, but the young signal-caller still has much to learn about playing quarterback at the NFL level. That, in Schefter's mind, could lead the 49ers to hold on to Garoppolo.
"Let me say this: He's developing the right way," Schefter said. "They are happy with him. But I go back to my initial statement, that he did not play college football at all two years ago. He's coming from a small school, to begin with. And there is a steep learning curve for a quarterback like that who's blessed with a lot of talent, who they still are very high on.
"It's not a reflection of whether they think he's going to make it. ... I'm just giving you the other side, that I don't think it's a lock [Garoppolo] is going to be traded. He very well might, but it's not a lock."
While Schefter isn't convinced Garoppolo's time in the Bay Area is over, the 30-year-old quarterback seemed resigned to his fate when he gave a heartfelt farewell to the media and fans during his end-of-season press conference.
“Faithful, thank you very much for everything,” Garoppolo said. “It’s been crazy, man. Just all the comebacks at Levi’s, comebacks on the road, ups and downs, it’s been a hell of a ride, guys. I love you guys. See ya.”
It's more than likely that Garoppolo's 49ers tenure ended with a 20-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game. But, if Lance truly isn't where he needs to be, head coach Kyle Shanahan might not hesitate to run it back with Garoppolo one more time.