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NFL Free Agency: Patrick Willis, Justin Smith expected to retire; Colin Kaepernick on the trade block?

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Well, the NFL Free Agency "legal tampering" period has been anything but boring.

In shocking 49ers news, Yahoo!'s Rand Getlin is reporting that San Francisco expects All Pro linebacker Patrick Willis to retire. This is ostensibly what Pro Football Talk teased this morning when Mike Florio wrote:

Some very surprising news related to the 49ers is coming, likely later today, regarding a key player on the team who won't be on the team in 2015. A formal announcement is expected on Tuesday. That's all we can say for now. But when it happens, you'll be shocked — even though you're now duly braced to be shocked.

Willis, 30, has been one of, if not the best linebacker in the NFL over the last nine years but a toe injury shortened his season to just six games in 2014. Rookie Chris Borland emerged as a playmaker at the middle linebacker position but losing Willis would be a huge blow for the NIners -- Willis is/was a true three-down back that can play the run and defend the pass with equal effectiveness.


Mike Florio of Pro Football talk confirmed that his "surprise news" was Willis' impending retirement, but Florio also reports that defensive tackle Justin Smith will retire as well. With Frank Gore heading to Philly, Michael Crabtree likely on his way to greener pastures, Patrick Willis and Justin Smith retiring, Jim Harbaugh gone, Mike Iupati likely gone, this 49ers team feels a whole lot different.

And, if that wasn't enough for you, last night, Jayson Braddock, who was the first to report the Byron Maxwell to Philadelphia deal and its contract details, started a bit of a firestorm when he stated a source indicated that 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was on the trade block. He subsequently reported that the two teams currently talking with the Niners are the Eagles and Bears.

The report was refuted (sort of) by Mike Garofolo of FOX Sports, and 49ers GM Trent Baalke wasted no time in shooting it down as well.

"Colin is our quarterback and we are excited to have him," Baalke said. "He is not going anywhere. The media reports suggesting otherwise are without merit and, quite frankly, ridiculous."

Of course, this would not be the first time that fellow reporters and/or a front office denied trade rumors before they ended up being true. Something to watch. At this point, nothing would surprise me.

Stand by for more.