McFeely: Former NFL Bison quarterbacks face uncertain future

FARGO — Trey Lance will be in San Francisco and, as of now, is the default 49ers QB1. That status could change in September.

Carson Wentz and Easton Stick? Their NFL careers, including their addresses, are far less certain.

All three former North Dakota State quarterbacks in the NFL face a confusing future for a number of reasons, which means this offseason will likely be a tumultuous one for them.

Purdy’s injury gives Lance a chance

Lance was taken with the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and spent that season trailing starter Jimmy Garoppolo. The former Bison QB was given the starting job when training camp began in 2022 with Garoppolo pushed aside, even as doubts about Lance’s readiness were apparent.

San Francisco lost to Chicago in the season opener, with Lance and the 49ers’ offense struggling in a monsoon at Soldier Field. Lance suffered a broken leg in the first quarter of San Francisco’s next game, ending his season.

From there, San Francisco’s offense took off with Garoppolo leading the way. After going down with an injury, third member Brock Purdy took over and the offense went up another notch. Purdy led the Niners to the NFC Championship game.

Purdy, a rookie who was the last player selected in the 2022 draft, was clearly going to be the starting quarterback going into 2023. That sparked talk that San Francisco might try to trade Lance to recoup part of the ransom he gave to write it.

Alas, that talk fell silent when Purdy suffered a serious elbow injury in the NFC title game that required surgery in the offseason. Scheduled for next week, the surgery will keep Purdy out for at least six months. He could return to the field in mid-August, long after fall training camp begins and just a couple of weeks before the season opener.

After San Francisco’s loss in the NFC Championship Game, head coach Kyle Shanahan said the Niners would not be looking for a high-end quarterback in the offseason (although with Garoppolo leaving as a free agent, they will need a third quarterback). That means Purdy and Lance will be his two main QBs in 2023.

So if what Shanahan said about the 49ers not looking for a top quarterback is true, Purdy’s injury means Lance will be taking reps as the first-team quarterback during the OTA season. low and at the beginning of fall camp.

It would seem that given the short window between Purdy’s return to practice and the start of the regular season, Lance could start 2023 as the No. 1 quarterback. But it seems just as likely that Purdy will become the starter once he’s ready.

Lance is entering the third year of his original rookie deal of a four-year, $34 million contract. Purdy is scheduled to earn $870,000 in 2023 under his rookie contract, part of a four-year deal totaling $3.7 million.

Another year, another stop for Wentz

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft who would likely win the NFL MVP award in 2017 before he was derailed by a knee injury, Wentz appears to be heading to his fourth team in four seasons.

Philadelphia to Indianapolis to Washington, DC, to… where?

While Wentz could technically return to the Commanders, that possibility seems highly unlikely because the team would have to pay him $26.2 million by 2023. And they won’t do that for a quarterback who lost his starting job after injury last season. Sam Howell is the man in DC

So it’s almost guaranteed that Washington will release Wentz in mid-March, when teams can start talking to free agents.

Where could it end? It may depend on your expectations. If Wentz sees himself as a starter and wants starting money, he’s not going anywhere with an established quarterback. If Bismarck’s product is content to be an endorsement, it opens up more possibilities but means less money.

Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz (11) throws a touchdown pass during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday, December 24, 2022 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

Sergio Estrada/USA TODAY Sports

Carolina is a team that has been mentioned as a possible destination. The Panthers’ new coach is Frank Reich, who was Wentz’s offensive coordinator in Philadelphia and head coach in Indianapolis. Wentz landed with the Colts in 2021 in large part thanks to Reich, with whom he apparently has a close relationship. But things didn’t end well for Wentz in Indianapolis and Reich will have a chance to bring back his former quarterback, despite not having a clear No. 1. He seems risky.

With Tom Brady retiring in Tampa Bay and Kyle Trask as the Buccaneers’ best option, it could open a door for Wentz.

Maybe Las Vegas? Derek Carr was blown out by the Raiders, even though the team had no obvious option to take his place.

Wentz’s first head coach in Philadelphia, Doug Pederson, is now in charge of the Jacksonville Jaguars. But Wentz’s last two years in Philadelphia were tough, and Trevor Lawrence will start in 2023.

And, of course, teams will be able to pick college quarterbacks in the April draft, further complicating the picture.

Stick, who has been with the Los Angeles Chargers since 2019 after being drafted in the fifth round, doesn’t have the swagger of Lance or Wentz. He has been a backup in his career, mostly a third stringer, and has played in just one regular-season game in four NFL seasons.

So Stick is looking for a chance to show his stuff, or at least get a chance to show more stuff. His rookie contract is up and he has indicated that he might be headed somewhere other than the Chargers.

Stick told Bison 1660 radio last month that he’s taking some time to assess his future, and indicated that he wants to find a place where he has a chance to play.

Easton Stick - Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Chargers

August 20, 2022; Inglewood, California, United States; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Easton Stick (2) carries the ball against the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

“Obviously I want a chance to play and I feel like I can contribute something,” Stick said. “We’ll see what that looks like.”

The problem is that Stick does not have a resume to be a starter. His best hope would seem to be finding a place where he could compete for No. 2.

That could be any number of teams, including the Chargers. Justin Herbert is the undisputed starter, but veteran second line Chase Daniel is also a 36-year-old free agent. The Chargers could be ready to drop Daniel as a backup, which means Stick could possibly return to Los Angeles and compete to be Herbert’s backup.

One theory: In postseason walkout meetings, the Chargers and Stick agreed that Stick should test the free agency waters and see what opportunities exist. The Chargers might as well have told him: “If you find something good, take it. If not, the door is open here to keep talking.”

Stick made $965,000 in 2021, part of his original four-year contract that paid him a total of $3.26 million.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top