The San Francisco 49ers acquired one Pro Bowl left tackle and said goodbye to another.
The defending NFC champion 49ers acquired seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams from the Washington Redskins on Saturday for a pair of draft picks and later announced that six-time Pro Bowler Joe Staley is retiring.
“He’s as good as a player and warrior and person as any player I’ve ever been around,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I love the guy. It was really hard on us when we realized he wasn’t going to play this year.”
But it made it easier that the Niners were able to find a replacement. They sent a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft and a 2021 third-rounder to acquire Williams, who still must pass a physical for the trade to be finalized.
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The 49ers had a big need at left tackle because Staley informed them he planned to retire. He announced it later Saturday, saying a deteriorating neck injury led to his decision to retire after 13 seasons. Staley also missed nine games last season with injuries to his leg and finger.
“The game of football has been a true passion of mine since I was 8, but my body is telling me it is time,” Staley said in a statement. “Football is a physical sport and I have given my all to the game and pushed my limits. Last season was a dream to be a part of, having the opportunity to chase a championship. But, it was by far the most difficult on me and my family.”
Staley was a first-round pick in 2007 and played 181 games over 13 seasons. He was selected to the NFL's all-decade team for the 2010s and played a big role in San Francisco's runs to the Super Bowl following the 2012 and '19 seasons.
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“A consummate professional, one of the best players in the game and a great human being, Joe has left an indelible mark on this franchise and everyone he has come into contact with throughout his career," 49ers CEO Jed York said.
“His passion, sense of humor and heart are just a few of the many traits that allowed him not only to be a team leader but also an ambassador for our game and the Bay Area.”
Staley leaves a big void but the Niners were appreciative that he told them of his plans before the draft so they could make the move for Williams.
Williams sat out the entire 2019 season because of a dispute with Washington’s front office. The Redskins weren't able to get the compensation they wanted at last year's trade deadline and kept Williams. He renewed his request for a trade this offseason and was finally dealt.
“Trent Williams is a first-round value, that’s what he is,” Redskins vice president of player personnel Kyle Smith said. “That’s what the tape tells you. That’s what everybody knows. His circumstance and everything that has gone into this for two years or whatever it’s been, that’s what’s devalued him.”
In November, Williams revealed he had cancer and said that situation led him to distrust the Redskins’ medical staff and organization as a whole. The 31-year-old at the time said “there’s no trust there” with president Bruce Allen, who was fired after Washington’s 3-13 season.
The medical staff also was overhauled, and new coach Ron Rivera took control of football operations. Rivera spoke with Williams and it seemed as if there was hope to repair the relationship.
Instead, the Redskins gave Williams’ representatives permission to seek trading partners and it led to the deal with San Francisco on the third day of the draft.
“We’re going to build this culture with guys that want to be here, the guys that want to be part of what we’re doing, so we can go forward and just feel good about where we are,” Rivera said. "This was something that it gives everybody an opportunity to start clean and start fresh. We’re going forward from here.”
The deal reunites Williams with Shanahan, who was the offensive coordinator in Washington when Williams was drafted fourth overall in 2010.
“Skill-set wise, Trent is similar to Joe,” Shanahan said. “They are two of the most athletic guys I’ve been around at that position.”
Williams made the Pro Bowl every season from 2012-18 and is considered one of the best left tackles in the league when healthy. He has one year remaining on his contract, which will pay him $12.5 million this season.
Minutes after completing the trade, the Redskins drafted Williams’ potential replacement, LSU lineman Saahdiq Charles, with the 108th pick.
“Growing up as an offensive lineman, I watched Trent’s film many a time, and I have a lot of respect for his game,” Charles said. “Just to see that they traded him and picked me, it just shows what they might have in mind for me. I’m going to come in there (with) hard work and go do my thing.”
AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.
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