Left tackle Joe Staley said Wednesday he’s not concerned that the 49ers merely dipped a toe into the free-agency pool this offseason and insisted there are plenty of young players capable of fortifying last year’s rickety offensive line.
One of those players is second-year lineman Trent Brown, who started the final two games last season at right tackle. Staley thinks can take over the job this year.
“I mean, I think it’s expected,” he said. “I think he started (that process) at the end of the year last year and he has to come back with the mindset that it’s his position to win. So, I know it’s going to be a competition if they bring a guy in through free agency or the draft. But his mindset has to be it’s his position to take.”
Staley, who is the de facto leader of the offensive line, didn’t mention Anthony Davis as part of that competition. Davis, the team’s starting right tackle from 2010 to 2014, abruptly retired last June because of health concerns but has said at various points over the past few months he intends to play this season.
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Still, he has not yet applied for reinstatement with the league office, which is the first step in his comeback. Davis has not been part of the 49ers’ voluntary offseason program, which began April 4.
“I don’t know anything about that,” Staley said. “I haven’t kept in contact with him at all.”
Staley also was tight-lipped when asked what he thought about quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s trade request. He and his agents have been seeking a trade since February and have had in-depth talks with the Denver Broncos. Discussions currently are at a standstill and Kaepernick has been at team headquarters the past week and a half.
“He wanted a trade, I guess. I don’t know. I have no answer for you. .. Next question,” Staley said with a laugh.
Staley, 31, is the longest-tenured 49er and perhaps the team’s most talented offensive player. He also promises to be an excellent fit in new head coach Chip Kelly’s up-tempo attack, which, in Staley’s words, takes advantage of “big-guy athleticism” by requiring its tackles to pull out and operate in space.
Staley said Kelly’s system was similar to one he was part of at Central Michigan.
“I always personally enjoyed playing in it,” he said. “It kind of fit my skill set pretty well.”
The 49ers last year gave up an NFC-worst 53 sacks and provided a meager rushing attack, especially after tailback Carlos Hyde suffered a foot injury early in the season.
One of the few offseason moves by the 49ers was signing guard Zane Beadles, who is the frontrunner to line up next to Staley this season. Staley said he already was familiar with Beadles because they share an agent and that Beadles seemed like a sharp guy in team meetings.
Daniel Kilgore likely will play center in 2016, which means the biggest competitions could be at right guard and right tackle, the two most problematic areas last year.
Among those competing at guard will be young players Jordan Devey, Marcus Martin, Ian Silberman, Brandon Thomas and Andrew Tiller. Brown, veteran Erik Pears – and perhaps Davis – figure to be part of the mix at right tackle. Others are likely to be brought in through the draft, which is two weeks away.
Though the 49ers have a league-high 12 picks and Staley likely will be the only offensive starter in his 30s, he said he’s not looking at 2016 as a rebuilding year.
“We have guys that have to step up, that have to play well,” he said. “(Rebuilding) is a waste to guys like me, guys that are at the end of their career a little bit. We can’t waste a year rebuilding; we’ve got to do everything we can to win football games this year.”