Trey Lance’s leadership on display by welcoming 49ers rookies

Trey Lance requested and received the phone numbers of each of the 49ers’ nine picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Then, he fired off text messages to welcome each of the rookies to the team.

The incumbent, Jimmy Garoppolo, remains on the 49ers’ roster. He continues to undergo an anticipated four months of physical therapy in Southern California after he underwent right shoulder surgery on March 8.

Lance is the 49ers’ presumptive starting quarterback for the 2022 season. Nate Sudfeld, whom the 49ers signed this offseason to a fully guaranteed $2 million contract, appears to be in line to serve as the backup.

Garoppolo’s situation remains completely unsettled. The 49ers insist Garoppolo could remain with the team for the final year of his contract. Nobody has ruled out the notion he could be the starter.

But Lance, 22, is certainly acting the part of a team leader during the offseason program in Santa Clara.

Lance and Sudfeld met the newcomers, including seventh-round draft pick Brock Purdy, last week at the team’s rookie camp. Lance even stood on the practice field to watch the young players go through practice on Friday, according to reports.

“I’ve met Trey Lance and Nate Sudfeld,” said Purdy, a four-year starting quarterback at Iowa State and the final pick in the draft. “They’ve just been welcoming me with open arms and been great guys so far, and I know that those are the kind of people and teammates they are from what I’ve heard.

“I’m excited to get in that room and learn from them and compete.”

Purdy was asked if he had any communication with Garoppolo. At that point, he had not.

Garoppoo said his goodbyes and reflected on his 4 1/2 seasons with the 49ers just two days after the season-ending loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game. He expected he would already be with another team shortly early on in the offseason.

But when he surprised the 49ers and opted for shoulder surgery just a week before the start of the new league year, all trade options quickly evaporated.

There is a $7.5 million injury guarantee as part of Garoppolo’s contract. The 49ers will continue efforts to trade him after he is cleared to resume play. But there are not many options remaining.

If the 49ers are unable to find a team willing to give up a draft selection and be willing to pick up Garoppolo’s scheduled $24.2 million base salary, then what happens?

After the 49ers made the trade more than a year ago to trade up to No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft to select the team’s future quarterback, Garoppolo asked Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch if he would have the opportunity to compete for the starting job . Both men assured him he would have an opportunity to be the starter.

This year, Shanahan and Lynch might not be so willing to keep that door open for Garoppolo.

Lance will take all the practice snaps with the first-team offense through the offseason program, culminating with the mandatory minicamp from June 14-16.

The onus is on Lance to show during the offseason he is capable of giving the 49ers as much or more than what the organization got from a healthy Garoppolo from the time of his arrival in the middle of the 2017 season.

Garoppolo likely is to be cleared for full activity at some point between the end of the offseason program and the beginning of training camp. At that point, the 49ers should have solidified their plan for the upcoming season.

If the 49ers do not view Garoppolo as the starter, it seems absurd they would keep him on their roster when they could redirect his team-high salary to such players as Deebo Samuel and Nick Bosa.

The presence of Lance — the player the organization views as its franchise quarterback –, as well as his non-guaranteed salary, makes Garoppolo’s situation fluid with the 49ers.

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Garoppolo would be well within his rights to ask for his release sooner than later in order to provide him with the best opportunity to land with a team that gives him a better chance at a future beyond the upcoming season.

Right now, it’s difficult to imagine anyone other than Lance as the 49ers’ starting quarterback. He looks to be a natural for that role.

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