Joe Staley retirement rumors fueled Bucs-49ers NFL draft-night trade


Joe Staley didn't announce his retirement from the NFL until Saturday, but rumors of the longtime 49ers left tackle's decision fueled a trade two days prior to that.

During the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who held the No. 14 overall pick, were dead set on moving ahead of the 49ers, who held No. 13.

Why? Because Bucs general manager Jason Licht heard Staley might retire, and he believed the 49ers could look to draft his replacement at No. 13. Tampa Bay had its eyes on Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs, and wanted to get him before San Francisco did.

In the end, the Bucs wound up dealing straight with the 49ers. Tampa Bay received No. 13 and a seventh-round pick for No. 14 and a fourth-round choice.

The Bucs picked Wirfs, and the 49ers drafted South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw at No. 14.

So, how do we know all these details? Because NBC Sports NFL analyst Peter King was granted special access to the Bucs' virtual draft room, and listened to the trade calls.

In his latest Football Morning In America column, King provided a minute-by-minute account of how the Bucs achieved their goal of moving ahead of the 49ers.


Here's the timeline of what went down, in King's words:

9:36 p.m. ET. “I don’t think we can mess around here,” Licht says, as San Francisco (13) goes on the clock. But why? Why not just sit at 14 and pick the last tackle of the great prospects, Tristan Wirfs of Iowa?

Licht had some intel that Niners starting left tackle Joe Staley was going to retire. So the free world was certain this next pick for the Niners was a great wide receiver or Javon Kinlaw, the defensive tackle who could replace the traded DeForest Buckner. Licht said: “Call A.P.” John Spytek, the personnel director, had been talking with San Francisco VP of player personnel Adam Peters during the week. Licht wanted this deal, and he wanted it now.

“The Staley stuff scared me,” Licht said later. “The Niners could definitely be a tackle team.”

9:37 p.m. ET. The GM side of Licht’s brain didn’t want to move up one spot and surrender a good pick (fourth round, 117 overall), while getting a seven in return. He know it might take that, but he wasn’t ready to make the offer yet. “A six,” he tells Spytek. “Start with that.” Spytek calls Peters.

9:39 p.m. ET. Spytek calls Peters again. Is on hold with him. “They’re thinking,” Spytek tells the group.

9:40 p.m. ET. Still on hold.

9:41 p.m. ET. R-r-r-r-ringggggg! Licht’s phone. He answers it, annoyed. “Nothanksnothanks,” he says quickly and hangs up. Trade offer he had no interest in. All that matters now is the Niners. Spytek has made the final offer: San Francisco trades a one and a seven (13 and 245) to Tampa Bay for a one and a four (14, 117).

9:42 p.m. ET. Waiting.

9:43 p.m. ET. Niners say yes, Spytek reports. “Do it,” Licht says. Licht looks at the clock. Just 1:31 remains in the Niners drafting period. Now Greenberg calls NFL trademeister Ken Fiore to report the deal; a Niners counterpart does the same to another member of Fiore’s team.

9:44 p.m. ET. “We good?” Licht says to the Cisco group. Yes, he’s told; trade accepted. Mike Biehl fills in the card for the league office, notifying them of the pick. Licht looks at the clock ... 45 seconds left in the period. Plenty of time!

Staley indeed retired, confirming what Licht had heard, but the 49ers went elsewhere to replace him, acquiring All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams from Washington on Saturday.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]


The draft-night trade with the Bucs helped the 49ers in another way. The fourth-round pick they acquired was used a short time later Thursday, when they traded it to the Minnesota Vikings to move up from No. 31 to No. 25. That's where the 49ers drafted Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

The Bucs' fear and panic worked in the 49ers' favor. By moving down one spot, they acquired the asset required to move up later in the first round. Without it, they likely wouldn't have Aiyuk right now.

[RELATED: Rams coach McVay needed beer after 49ers' Williams trade]

And without the Bucs letting King in their virtual draft room, we wouldn't have these details on how it all happened.