The San Francisco 49ers were the surprise winner of the Trent Williams sweepstakes, but there was a reason why the franchise acted so quickly to acquire the seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle. Longtime blindside protector Joe Staley announced his retirement on Saturday, putting an end to his 13-year tenure in San Francisco. According to ESPN, Staley told the 49ers of his plans and wanted to give the organization ample time to find his replacement.
"While I am sad and disappointed my time has come to step away, I leave with my head held high, knowing I gave my all to the game. I fulfilled the dreams I had as a kid," Staley wrote in his announcement.
Staley walks away after an injury riddled 2019 season, one in which he played just seven games. The 35-year-old Staley missed two months with a broken fibula in 2019 and played through the Super Bowl with a hand injury. But while injuries slowed him down on the field, All-Pro tight end George Kittle explained in a 49ers Twitter video how his impact off it never wavered.
"Thank you for everything that you did, both for the organization, for the team and me, personally," Kittle said in a video thanking Staley. "You've been incredible. I have loved lining up next to you on the left side for the last three years. You made my job a lot easier."
Staley appeared in two Super Bowls for the 49ers (he was the only player on the 49ers' Super Bowl LIV team that also played on the Super Bowl XLVII team). A first-round pick of the 49ers in 2007, Staley started all 181 games he played for the 49ers -- manning the left tackle position for the past 12 seasons (he was the team's right tackle in 2007).
Prior to the draft, the 49ers were under the impression Staley would return for the 2020 season, but those plans changed.
"We've kept in good contact with Joe," 49ers general manager John Lynch said on a conference call prior to the draft. "He's doing his typical routine down with his family in San Diego, working out. We've heard nothing that would lead us to believe that Joe is not going to play. ... We are encouraged that Joe will be a part of us, moving forward."
With Staley moving on, Williams immediately slides into the left tackle spot for the 49ers -- who decided to keep Mike McGlinchey at right tackle. San Francisco traded a 2020 fifth-round pick and a 2021 third-round pick to the Washington Redskins for Williams earlier Saturday.