SANTA CLARA — Trey Lance is off the 49ers, and onto the rival Dallas Cowboys.
Lance, drafted No. 3 overall in 2021 after a massive trade up to that perch, got dealt for a fourth-round draft pick, a team source confirmed less than three hours before kickoff of the 49ers’ preseason finale.
Lance’s exit comes just two days after coach Kyle Shanahan informed him that Sam Darnold would be the top backup this season to Brock Purdy.
The 49ers’ trading partner comes as a bit of a surprise, on multiple levels.
One, it’s the Cowboys, and the 49ers can only hope this trade does not backfire the way an August 1992 deal did, in which Charles Haley was sent to Dallas (for 1993 second- and third-round picks) to help buoy the Cowboys’ Super Bowl runs.
Second, Dallas has invested heavily in Dak Prescott as their starter, even though Prescott and the Cowboys have been eliminated from the playoffs the past two seasons by the 49ers. Cooper Rush was poised to serve as Prescott’s top backup this year.
The 49ers selected Lance a month after a whopping trade with the Miami Dolphins to move up from the No. 12 spot. The 49ers surrendered first-round draft picks in 2021, ’22 and ’23, along with a 2022 third-rounder to climb up to the No. 3 spot.
Lance made just four starts with the 49ers, two in each of his two seasons — losing his October 2021 debut in Arizona, winning at home in December 2021 against Tennessee, then losing last season’s water-logged opener in Chicago before a fractured ankle forced him out of a home-opening win over Seattle.
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Although Lance made a full recovery from that ankle fracture after two surgeries, his 49ers tenure was also hindered by a fractured finger in the 2021 preseason finale, and a sprained knee in that 14-carry, 15-completion starting debut in Arizona. Lance’s guaranteed rookie contract is now property of the Cowboys, including $940,000 salary this season and $5.3 million next year, with the ability to exercise a fifth-year option in 2025.
Check back for more on this developing story.