49ers need to go outside the organization to fill Staley's void, but Trent Williams isn't the answer

Veteran left tackle is out for 8 weeks with broken fibula

Tommy Call
September 17, 2019 - 9:48 pm

The 49ers season has started picture perfect. Back-to-back road wins. Jimmy Garoppolo is healthy. And the defense looks the strongest it’s been since the Patrick Willis era. 

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Although things may look great heading into Week 3, there’s suddenly a major dent in the 49ers' gleaming armor. Veteran left tackle and locker room leader, Joe Staley, is scheduled to miss up to eight weeks with a broken fibula. 

Devastating injuries are something the 49ers are all too familiar with, but Staley's will be tougher to overcome than most. Off his ACL tear, Garoppolo needs to be comfortable with the linemen protecting him. Garoppolo's had a clean pocket to start the season, but the wheels could fall off in Staley's absence. 

The 49ers have limited options to replace Staley in house making things more difficult. The 49ers sixth offensive linemen, Shon Coleman, who was slated to be the swing tackle is out for the season. Coleman went down with a season-ending injury in the first preseason tilt.

Next man up is rookie sixth-round pick Justin Skule. Skule has about as limited experience at left tackle as it gets. The odds say Skule will ultimately run into problems protecting Garoppolo’s blind side making fans angsty for general manager John Lynch to make a move.

There is an option available on the trade market, but let’s put an end to that idea right now. Washington offensive tackle Trent Williams is still not with his team as he is holding out for a new contract. Williams might be even an upgrade to Staley at left tackle, but it makes little sense to bring the disgruntled bookend to Santa Clara right now. From multiple angles, Williams would cost simply too much for the 49ers to take on. 

First, Williams would cost a pretty penny just to get him to Santa Clara. The Redskins would want a ransom to move on from their 31-year-old pro bowler. 

The conversation would start around a first or second-round pick. Since the cquisition of Dee Ford already cost the 49ers their second-round pick, the team is stuck behind the eight-ball. The Redskins know the 49ers are desperate after Staley’s injury which would put Williams at an even higher premium. The only leverage the 49ers have is Williams wants out of Washington, but the Redskins are showing patience in dealing with him.

It wouldn’t be wise for Lynch to ditch his first two picks for the 2020 draft leaving the 49ers with only mid-round picks and ammo for 2021 to offer the Redskins. Even if Washington bites, the 49ers would then have to shell out a large contract for Williams. He wants to be highly compensated for his play, aka the reason he’s holding out in Washington.

This is a problem for a few reasons. The 49ers aren’t flush with cap space and they have a few important players that need to be resigned soon. Captains DeForest Buckner and George Kittle will each be due for a new and expensive contract after the 2020 season. Both of those players should take a priority over acquiring Williams. 

All this and we’re not even factoring in how Williams, Staley and Mike McGlinchey would fit on the line together when Staley returns in eight weeks. 

Now, what should Lynch do? He can roll the dice on Skule or pay a premium on bringing in Williams, but it could knot their future cap. 

The last option and one the most appealing is bringing in veteran Ryan Schraeder. The former Valdosta State Blazer was cut this offseason by the Atlanta Falcons and is still unsigned. Schraeder’s play fell off in recent years, but he was once considered one of the better tackles in football. In 2016 he earned an 82.8 grade from Pro Football Focus. 

Schraeder is also familiar with Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan was the offensive coordinator when Schraeder was playing his best football. Schraeder would cost little money and could fill in if Skule can’t handle protecting Garoppolo. 

Skule should have a very short leash as the 49ers left tackle. Nothing can derail a team quicker than bad offensive line play. The 49ers have held together nicely, but if Skule struggles Lynch shouldn’t hesitate to call Schraeder. 

Skule will be tested right away when he faces T.J. Watt this weekend in the 49ers home opener. 

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