Joe Staley is a 49ers legend. The left offensive tackle was a key player on two San Francisco Super Bowl teams, a six-time Pro Bowler and a member of the NFL’s recently-selected All-Decade Team.
But some believe Trent Williams is even better than Staley.
Staley, who recently retired, will be replaced at left tackle by Williams, a seven-time Pro Bowler with Washington. The 49ers were able to trade for Williams – who held out in 2019 – to replace Staley in 2020.
Former 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan drafted Staley in the first round in 2007, then went on to work two seasons as general manager at Washington. So, he had a good look at the careers of Staley and Williams.
He told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle that as good as Staley was, Williams is better.
“Joe Staley is a really good tackle. Don’t get me wrong,” McCloughan said. “But he ain’t Trent Williams. He hasn’t been Trent Williams and won’t be Trent Williams when Trent’s career is over and you compare them.”
Williams is just 31, so he potentially has several more productive seasons as an offensive lineman in the NFL. And, he’s coming off a year where he didn’t play, allowing his body to heal.
Said McCloughan: “Staley fit that (49ers) offense to a T, but they’re different players. Trent is so talented that he can play in any system. You want to play power football? He’s going to play power football, and he’s going to wear your ass down.
“You want to play finesse football and dance out in space? He’ll do that with you all day. That’s why he’s so unique.”
Williams has one season remaining on his contract, but 49ers general manager John Lynch has indicted he’d be open to working on a longer deal with Williams. Both Lynch and Williams have said there’s no hurry.
The analytic website Pro Football Focus noted that from 2016-2018 (the last season Williams played in Washington), Williams graded as the NFL’s third-best left tackle, behind only David Bakhtiari of Green Bay and Staley. In 2016, Williams posted a 92.7 performance grade, the fifth highest for an offensive tackle since 2006 (when grading began).
For the 49ers to be able to replace Staley with Williams – once they learned Staley would retire at 35– was an enormous move for Lynch and Co.