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49ers trade quarterback Trey Lance to Cowboys, AP source says

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) looks for a receiver during the second half of the team's NFL football preseason game against the Denver Broncos on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, in Santa Clara, Calif. The 49ers won 21-20. (Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) looks for a receiver during the second half of the team’s NFL football preseason game against the Denver Broncos on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, in Santa Clara, Calif. The 49ers won 21-20. (Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

 

BY JOSH DUBOW contributing

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers have traded quarterback Trey Lance to the Dallas Cowboys less than three years after trading three first-round picks to draft him.

A person familiar with the situation said the Cowboys will send a fourth-round pick to San Francisco for a player drafted third overall in 2021. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal hasn’t been announced.

ESPN first reported the trade.

Lance had lost the competition to San Darnold to be the backup to Brock Purdy in San Francisco earlier in the week, setting the stage for his departure.

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) looks for a receiver during the second half of the team's NFL football preseason game against the Denver Broncos on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, in Santa Clara, Calif. The 49ers won 21-20. (Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) looks for a receiver during the second half of the team's NFL football preseason game against the Denver Broncos on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, in Santa Clara, Calif. The 49ers won 21-20. (Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

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FILE - Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) looks to pass before San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) caused him to fumble which 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw returned for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Dec. 4, 2022. The 49ers are still waiting for Bosa to arrive in camp with less than three weeks before the start of the season. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn, File)

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The move is a remarkable backtrack following the hefty investment the Niners made in hopes of Lance becoming a franchise quarterback.

San Francisco traded three first-round picks and a third-rounder to Miami in 2021 to move up from No. 12 and draft the untested Lance third overall.

Lance started only 17 games at FCS-level North Dakota State before the Niners drafted him, and he never got much of a chance to gain the experience he needed in the NFL.

He spent his rookie season backing up Jimmy Garoppolo, starting just two games as an injury replacement and being hampered by a finger injury on his throwing hand.

Lance was handed the starting job last season, but that lasted less than five quarters as he broke his ankle early in Week 2 and was sidelined for the rest of the season.

Purdy, taken with the last draft pick in 2022, came on late in the season and won his first seven starts to take over the starting role headed into this season.

San Francisco signed Darnold in free agency after he flamed out with the Jets and Carolina after also being drafted third overall in 2018 by New York. Darnold ended up doing enough in practices and the first two preseason games to beat out Lance.

Lance has completed 56 of 102 passes in his brief NFL career for 797 yards, five TDs, three interceptions and an 84.5 passer rating. He also has rushed for 235 yards and one TD on 54 carries.

Lance got off to a shaky start this preseason but did lead two late scoring drives after coming on in relief of Purdy and Darnold the second half last week against Denver.

Lance’s four starts will be the fewest for any quarterback taken in the top five of the draft in the common draft era for the team he made his debut. Jack Thompson had the previous low after starting five games for Cincinnati after being taken third overall in 1979.

The Cowboys now get a look at Lance, who is owed $940,000 this year and is guaranteed $5.3 million next season in the final year of his rookie deal.

Cooper Rush has been the backup most of Dak Prescott’s career in Dallas, including last season when he went 4-1 filling in after Prescott broke his thumb in the opener.

The trade appears to be the end of the line for Will Grier, who has been the third-stringer the past two seasons without appearing in a game.

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AP Pro Football Writer Schuyler Dixon in Dallas contributed to this report