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49ers roster breakdowns, 90-in-90: LT Joe Staley

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Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). We move on to left tackle Joe Staley.

Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but you get the idea.

San Francisco 49ers left tackle Joe Staley has been one of the top players on the team for several years. He’s consistently been above-average, regularly been very good and occasionally among the best in the league. But he isn’t without his issues, issues that have been well-defined over the years.

When Staley gets beat, he gets beat bad. When he starts to have a bad game, he hasn’t been great at climbing out of the hole to bounce back. He still makes rookie mistakes and doesn’t seem to cover for the guys around him like any offensive line leader should. That isn’t to say that he’s not a good leader, but at times Staley has been hurt by mistakes anybody here would have hoped were gone years ago.

Staley, the 49ers’ first-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, is 31 years old and will be 32 when next season gets underway. While there are little things here and there that are frustrating, Staley has anchored a line through the good and the bad. The 49ers signed him to a six-year contract extension in 2014 that will keep him with the team through the 2019 season.

He’s being paid like a starting left tackle, because that's what he is. I have no problem with the $8.3 million cap hit and neither should you. Last season, Staley was a bright spot on a very bad offensive line.

But it wasn't all good.

Gabbert Sack 04

Remember when I said that Staley had the propensity to be streaky in a bad way? The game against the Chicago Bears last season was a big one to illustrate that. Staley got beat consistently, including very quickly in the gif above. Erik Pears struggled with his man in that gif, but Staley was completely and utterly beaten, and quickly.

That was a game that saw very poor play from Marcus Martin and Alex Boone as well. You can hardly blame Staley for being on his heels when literally nobody around him is playing well, but he was beaten off the snap far too many times.

Gabbert Sack 01

Both Staley and Vance McDonald got beaten on that play, but Staley’s was more interesting. He’s always been good at the more athletic blocking and he’s always been good in his hips. But he was not in either of the two plays above and it left me wondering if this was the result of a bad game or a trend late in his career.

After rewatching a whole lot of other film, I came to the conclusion that it’s definitely something that happened more last season. But only time will tell if the five-time Pro Bowler actually is on the decline.

Basic info

Age: 31

Experience: 9 accrued seasons

Height: 6’5

Weight: 315

Cap status

He is due to earn $5.4 million in base salary, with a cap hit of $8.3 million. He signed through 2019.

Why he might improve in 2016

Staley is coming off a pretty bad season playing on a very bad offensive line. That line shouldn’t feature Jordan Devey, which is already amazingly wonderful news and should be a big boost for Staley. There’s a good chance he’ll be blocking for Blaine Gabbert, who probably won’t run into as many sacks as Colin Kaepernick did. He’s young as far as offensive linemen are concerned in today’s NFL and improvement could happen.

Why he might regress in 2016

Staley has been remarkably consistent on an inconsistent team with an inconsistent coaching staff. But he’s getting up there in years and you have to keep that in mind. The decline will come, and nobody knows exactly when it will. He has to learn a new offense and he will be playing without Alex Boone by his side. Regression may not necessarily be likely, but if it were to happen it wouldn’t be unexpected.

Odds of making the roster

There is a lot of money going Staley’s way in the coming seasons. But it would take a complete collapse and then some for the 49ers to consider parting ways with him in the next year or two. He’s the starting left tackle and he’ll be on the roster next season.