49ers GM Lynch Believes Joe Staley Will Play

Left tackle is getting ready for 2020, team won’t need a replacement in the NFL draft

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Joe Staley has been with the 49ers for a long while. At age 35, he’s been starting at left tackle for San Francisco since his rookie season of 2007. He’s been banging heads with NFL defenders for 181 regular-season games, plus 11 more in the postseason.

So, there has been speculation Staley may retire.

But Niners general manager John Lynch said Monday he’s optimistic Staley will play in the 2020 season – if there is one.

“We’ve kept in good contact with Joe,” Lynch told reporters on a conference call in the lead-up to Thursday’s first round of the NFL draft. “He’s doing his typical routine down with his family in San Diego, working out. We’re encouraged. We’ve heard nothing that would lead us to believe that Joe’s not going to play. We’re encouraged with that and we’ll see where it goes.”

What Staley does, of course, has an impact on what the 49ers do in the draft. If their top offensive lineman decides to retire, the team would have to address that in the draft, perhaps with one of the team’s two first-round picks (Nos. 13 and 31). If Lynch knows Staley plans to stick around, he doesn’t have to use a high pick on a tackle, but can focus on filling a need (wide receiver, in particular) or getting the best player available.

Lynch, a former terrific NFL safety, went through the same process as Staley is going through now. The former Stanford standout played 15 NFL seasons, was selected to nine Pro Bowls and was a two-time first-team All-Pro before retiring at age 36 after the 2007 season with Denver.

Said Lynch, about Staley’s decision about when to retire: “That is something with each and every player, particularly as they get closer. You give them that time that they need. But we are encouraged that Joe is going to be a part of us moving forward.”

Staley, who turns 36 in August, has one season remaining on a two-year deal. He hasn’t publicly said anything about his status for 2020.

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