Joe Staley surprised himself this week.
Typically not one to show his sentimental side, Staley broke down in tears in front of 49ers general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan on Monday after signing a two-year extension that includes $27.6 million in new money. The contract takes a major step toward Staley finishing his career with the team that selected him in the first round of the 2007 draft.
Staley, who accurately describes himself as “big, loud and obnoxious,” made a vintage Staley-esque entry into the team’s Santa Clara offices to sign the contract after practice this week.
”When Joe came up and signed, I heard this big – as you only do with Joe – this big howl throughout the building upstairs,” Lynch said. “His family was there. It was really an awesome moment. It was fun. A special deal for everybody throughout the building.”
Said Staley, “I was like, ‘Yeaahhhh!’ And then I started talking, and I was like, ‘Uh, why am I crying?’"
"It means a lot to me," he said.
Staley’s reaction was shocking because of the stark contrast to his usual demeanor.
“I’ve never seen the serious side of Joe. You don’t see that often,” Lynch said. “Kyle, he and I shared a little time. I think we were down in Kyle’s office, and got to see a different side of Joe. We appreciated that, because it’s authentic and it’s real. It was a special day for him and he felt good about it. We felt good about it.
“It’s one of the best feelings I’ve had on this job was to see that come to fruition.”
The unveil of the deal
CEO Jed York hinted on social media just an hour earlier that there would be some news at the team’s state-of-the-franchise event Wednesday night in San Jose. Shanahan remarked on stage that the Warriors' Game 3 of the NBA Finals was attracting a lot of attention in Oakland at the same time.
“But that’s OK,” York said to the packed crowd at the California Theater. “So we figured, why don’t we bring up a special guest tonight? Is Joe Staley back there?”
Staley, who has established himself as a fan favorite in his 12 seasons with the club, entered stage left to cheers from the crowd.
“One of the things that players really look at and they think about – we do a lot of awards and things like that – but one of the things that really matters is being on that 10-year wall,” York continued. “Joe has been on that 10-year wall, the most recent addition to the 10-year wall. What do we think about giving Joe maybe a two-year contract extension. . . ?”
The crowd erupted, and Staley went on to deliver his unscripted remarks.
“Usually, I don’t get nervous speaking, but I was really nervous,” Staley said afterward. “It was a big deal for me, and it’s something I was very proud of, the opportunity to finish my career in one spot was one of my goals, honestly, when I came in was just to play for this one franchise and make a career out of this.”
Staley also didn’t want to repeat in public what occurred in private after he signed the contract extension that places him under contract through the 2021 season.
“I was worried I was going to get emotional out there,” Staley said. “I was like, ‘Keep it together.’”
Staley keeps it together
When it was time to deliver his remarks, Staley managed to keep it together without getting too emotional.
Joe Staley on his contract extension through 2021. pic.twitter.com/k55uKmyH7e— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoNBCS) June 6, 2019
”Honestly, Jed, since the moment you guys drafted me in 2007, it’s been my absolute honor to play for this franchise, and I want nothing more than to continue my entire career here. . .
”I want to thank you and your family so much for believing in me throughout my whole entire career. You’ve given the players everything we could ever ask for. The culture you have in the building. I have a lot of friends that around the league that I’ve met throughout the years and they don’t speak as highly about their franchise as we do here about the 49ers, so thank you for continuing to believe in us.
”Playing for 15 years – who knows, maybe more – but what we really want to do is bring you a championship trophy. Because this is the only franhcise that matters to me. I know there are a lot of guys back there, everybody on this whole entire roster, this is the only franchise that matters to everybody. We want to bring a championship, and I will play until my legs fall off until we win a championship . . .
”Kyle and John, I also want to say thank you to you guys. You guys have kept that fire in me burning. I’m 35 years old. I still feel like I have a lot of great football left to play. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to continue my career here, keeping me exciting about coming to work every single day.
”And, lastly, I want to thank the fans. You guys don’t know but you guys are amazing fans. I mean, you guys know, obviously. But you guys are amazing fans and you’ve made my career so far so much fun. You guys have accepted me, my big personality, since 2007. You guys loved the Joe Show. You guys love all the stupid stuff I do, but the Bay Area is my home and it’s because of people like you who make it so much fun, so thank you!”
How it all came together
Immediately after last season, Staley joked about looking ahead to being a free agent after the 2019 season. Privately, he said he was anxious about the uncertainty of being so close to his contract coming to an end.
Staley considered retirement during the 2017 season. His knee was aching, he was not having fun and it became a chore for him just to come to work every day.
But after a healthy and encouraging talk from Shanahan, Staley said he felt a renewed sense of purpose and enthusiasm. Then, last year something else happened: The 49ers selected right tackle Mike McGlinchey with the No. 9 overall draft pick, and he immediately hit it off with the rookie.
“I don’t want to give McGlinchey too much credit, but I do think there was something,” Lynch said. “We thought what a great opportunity for Mike when he came in to learn from a guy like Joe. And Joe certainly took him under his wing. But I think Mike was a little bit of fountain of youth for Joe. It kind of reinvigorated him, and you need that.”
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo certainly witnessed the impact McGlinchey had on Staley, too.
“Those two are inseparable, especially in the stadium,” he said. “When you get a young guy like that, it kind of reminds you of your young days, I’m sure. They’re phenomenal duo.”
Now, Staley and McGlinchey figure to be teammates for another three seasons.
“Thunder buddies for life,” Staley said.
At some point this offseason, Staley determined he indeed wanted to continue his career beyond 2019 and seek a contract extension with the 49ers. The club also decided to pursue an extension for Staley.
Lynch said the 49ers were motivated on multiple levels to get Staley signed to a multi-year contract. After all, Staley earned it by playing so well last season.
“We went back and watched it (Staley’s film) in the offseason, and it was even more impressive than we thought, so he earned it, first and foremost, by that,” Lynch said.
The 49ers turned over a large portion of their roster since Lynch and Shanahan took over the football operations in February 2019. Staley is a valued link that brings with him the perspective of experiencing good times and bad.
“I think Joe is the perfect guy to say, ‘Hey, we’re also about taking care of our own.’ We just had to have some of our that we had that opportunity with, and when we’ve turnde over the roster, we haven’t had many opportunities,” Lynch said. “But Joe was one of those, and probably nobody deserves it more than him. We’re very excited about it.”
Contract talks involving Staley’s representation, led by agent Ryan Tollner, and 49ers’ chief negotiator Paraag Marathe took off quickly, heated up last week. The deal was finalized on Monday.
“It was a big secret,” Staley said. “I signed it on Monday. I was coming off the practice field. My agent was there. They were working on the structure. He gave me a thumbs-up. Then, we had a huddle meeting about going over everything. And I said, ‘Yep, looks good; let’s do it.’”
Teammates thrilled by news
Of course, many of those closest to Staley knew about his new contract a couple of days before the big reveal.
“A lot of excitement. Yeah, a lot of excitement,” Garoppolo said, describing the reaction of his teammates. “When I first heard about it, I hugged him. Having a guy like that in the locker room, especially it’s so rare now days to see a someone play for the same franchise for their entire career, I’m really happy for him and his family.”
DeForest Buckner, who is in line for a lucrative contract extension of his own, put his investigative instincts to work on Monday to deduce that Staley was signing a new deal.
“I walked into the cafeteria a couple of days ago and I saw his whole family and I was like, ‘You know what? There’s only one reason they’d all be here right now,’” Buckner said. “And I came in the next morning and I said, ‘Joe, congratulations.’ And he was like, ‘How did you know?’
“I was like, ‘I know everything.’”
For the full impact of creating excitement inside the theater on Wednesday, it was important to keep the news under wraps as much as possible.
“I was told to keep my mouth shut until (Wednesday night),” Staley said. “I even told my mom and dad. You can’t say nothing to anybody. My dad was, ‘I have 12 people who follow me on social media, and it’s your sisters and your uncle.’”
The future is written
Staley, who turns 35 on Aug. 30, is diligent about taking care of his body. He finished sixth in the Michigan state track and field competition in the 200 meters in 2003 before going on to Central Michigan as a tight end. He has special athletic skills, and his actions have convinced the 49ers to invest another three seasons in him to play the marquee position on the offensive line.
"Sometimes in the offssesaon workouts, he’s looking better than some of the young guys, and that’s exciting to see that," Buckner said. "I’m glad the coaches see that. He’s a trustworthy guy, a veteran guy. He’s proven himself throughout the years. I’m very happy for him and his family that he can finish off his career here."
Staley has six Pro Bowl appearances on his impressive résumé.
Lynch said the club was also motivated to do something to lock in Staley because he did not like the thought of fielding a team without him.
“If he’s not here, what’s it going to look like? And we didn’t like that,” Lynch said. “Not that there are not candidates on our roster. We feel better than ever about our depth, but Joe is a big part of this team in so many ways. It made too much sense.”
Said Staley, “I don’t look back on my career every and think of like things or whatever. It’s not what I’ve really done. But this is something I take pride in, to have the opportunity to play for one franchise for my entire career. Yeah, a two-year deal, a two-year extension, so three more years. And, I got my wife all signed up for three more years, and we’re ready to go.”
Staley assumes he will be ready to retire on his own terms following the 2021 season. But, at the same time, he does not want to close the door on going even longer.
“Right now, yeah, 2021 is a 15-year career,” Staley said. “It’s plenty long enough for an offensive lineman, especially.
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“Who’s to say, honestly? I don’t want to close a door. If I still feel really good, and I know the way I take care of my body and the way I train, and if I still feel good, I’m not going to close the door completely. But as of right now, yes, that will be last year, but we’ll see.”
Lynch made it through 15 NFL seasons in his career.
“Hopefully, he beats that,” Lynch said. “Nothing would make me happier.”