Niners agree with first-round tackle Staley
Updated: July 17, 2007, 11:18 AM ETBy Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com
Offensive tackle Joe Staley, the latter of San Francisco's two choices in the first round of the April draft, reached agreement in principle on a five-year contract with the 49ers on Monday.The contract, negotiated by Priority Sports, has a maximum value of $10.74 million and includes $5.6 million in guarantees. The 28th player chosen overall, Staley is only the second pick in the first round to come to terms on a contract, joining Chicago Bears tight end Greg Olsen, the 31st selection. Staley was the third offensive tackle selected in the first round, after Joe Thomas (Cleveland) and Levi Brown (Arizona), but many scouts feel he has the most upside of the group of pass protectors. Although he worked some at right tackle in the spring, Staley is viewed as San Francisco's long-term solution at the often problematic left tackle spot. The 49ers traded up with New England for a second pick in the first round because they coveted Staley so much. San Francisco chose University of Mississippi middle linebacker Patrick Willis with its own pick in the round, in the No. 11 slot. A tight end when he enrolled at Central Michigan, Staley played in 11 games as a true freshman and posted 11 receptions for 130 yards. He moved to right tackle as a sophomore in 2004, then to left tackle in 2005, and played his final two seasons there. Over the course of his college career, Staley bulked up by 80 pounds. Staley is a terrific natural athlete who moves well for a player his size (6 feet 5, 306 pounds), and who has quick feet and solid techniques. He didn't work out at the combine, but at his pro day audition for scouts was timed in 4.79 seconds in the 40-yard dash and had a 32-inch vertical jump. In 25 games at left tackle, Staley allowed just five sacks according to the Central Michigan coaches and had 178 "knockdown" blocks and 34 blocks that resulted in touchdowns. The 49ers signed former Buffalo starter Jonas Jennings as an unrestricted free agent in the spring of 2005, hoping he would solidify the left tackle position for many years. But the six-year veteran has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency in his two seasons with the club. Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.
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