The 49ers' version of Mr. Reliable will be off the field for at least six to eight weeks. Left tackle Joe Staley, who has missed a total of four games since 2011, will be sidelined for an extended period of time.
He will miss more than those four games alone this season after breaking his left fibula in the 49ers' 41-17 blowout road win Sunday over the Bengals. Staley expects to be out for six weeks, but don't put that timeline in pen. The 49ers are lucky his injury doesn't require season-ending surgery, but it remains to be seen when he'll fully return to health.
So with Staley injured, what should the 49ers do now?
Coach Kyle Shanahan turned to rookie Justin Skule when Staley went down Sunday, but a sixth-round draft pick isn't exactly who you want protecting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's blind side. The 49ers could go bargain hunting ... or they could turn to a star who Shanahan is familiar with.
With their first 2-0 start since 2012, the 49ers have playoff aspirations. Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have to assess this team's immediate future, which means they should entertain the idea of trading for Washington's left tackle Trent Williams, who still is holding out for a larger contract.
Williams, 31, is a seven-time Pro Bowler and a beast of a man at 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds. He desperately wants out of Washington and has worked with Shanahan before, when the 49ers coach was his offensive coordinator for four seasons from 2010 through 2013. But Williams would come with a hefty price tag.
To acquire Williams, the 49ers likely would have to give up a first-round draft pick, and they already lost their 2020 second-round pick when they traded for Dee Ford. Williams also has a $14.6 million salary-cap hit for 2020. Williams wants a new deal and the 49ers likely would have to secure him for the long haul.
If that would be the case, the 49ers would be choosing Williams over Staley, who they signed to a new contract through 2021 this past offseason. Staley, 35, wants to be in red and gold his entire career. Are the 49ers willing to demote a player who has been loyal through tumultuous times?
The more likely scenario has the 49ers trading for another depth tackle. But is that the right move?
Garoppolo showed superstar flashes Sunday. The 49ers have a plethora of running backs who can break off big runs and their defensive line might be the best in the NFL. Through two weeks, this team looks like a top-10 team in football.
Lynch and Shanahan are sick of losing. In Year 3, they have playoffs on their minds. How far are they willing to go, though?
The 49ers have a big decision to make and they can't waste any time while doing so.