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Joe Staley returning in 2019

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What happens after that is up to him.

As far as 2019 is concerned, count Joe Staley in. The San Francisco 49ers left tackle told Chris Biderman he will at least be back in 2019, the final year of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers. Staley restructured his deal in 2017, jumping his salary from $11 million to $17.4 million.

What happens after 2019 is up to Staley. There are no plans for 2020. At least, not yet.

Since his drafting, Staley played lights out all the way into the twilight of his career, making it to No. 8 on Pro Football Focus’ top-25 offensive linemen for the 2018 season. The 49ers are working on borrowed time with Staley and will have a vacant left tackle spot up for grabs as early as 2020. There is some speculation the position will be rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey’s but he’s had a solid rookie campaign on the right side and has struggled at left tackle in college. Even if McGlinchey were to transfer to the left side, it leave a hole on the right that the 49ers will need to fulfill.

This has been something in the cards for awhile. Staley wasn’t sure he’d return in 2018, but a talk with Kyle Shanahan changed everything and his deal got restructured. It’s clear the end is near for Staley and the 49ers will need to get an exit strategy of sorts ironed out before it’s too late. Left tackle is one of the most important positions in football and the last thing they need is Jimmy Garoppolo taking a punishing hit he doesn’t see coming.

Regardless if Staley retires or not after 2019, the 49ers will have big shoes to fill and a big position to figure out. Assuming 2019 is it for Staley, the clock is ticking.

How do you propose they go about this?