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Patrick Willis and Justin Smith expected to retire, call time on 49ers career

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Football News

Monday has not been a good day for San Francisco 49ers fans so far.

It began with speculation concerning their franchise quarterback and only got worse with the news that cornerstone of the team, Patrick Willis, is preparing to retire from the NFL, aged just 30.

Throw in the probable retirement of fellow defensive star, Justin Smith, which also broke today and the franchise's prospects for the 2015 season just took a major hit.

Yahoo! Sports' NFL Insider Rand Getlin was amongst the first to report on Willis' impending retirement, before added another devastating blow - citing sources explaining veteran lineman Smith would also not be returning next season.

The 49ers were already in the midst of a transitional offseason but this double blow now makes the job of new head coach Jim Tomsula all the more difficult.

Eight and out

Since being drafted with the 11th overall pick back in 2007, Patrick Willis has established himself as one of the best players of his generation in his position - receiving seven Pro Bowl selections and five first-team All Pro honors.

Willis made only six appearances during the 2014 campaign however as toe surgery saw it cut short in November, but it doesn't appear injury is the reason behind calling time on his career. His impending retirement is being linked to a "religious awakening", with the linebacker hoping to spend more time working with the community and pursuing charity work.

Smith follows

Justin Smith's potential retirement will not come as as much of a shock to the 49ers hierarchy but will nevertheless have a lasting impact going forward.

If the 35-year-old does decide not to return for 2015, San Francisco will be without both defensive stars for the first time since the 2007 NFL season.

Smith has five Pro Bowl selections to his name but, unlike Willis five years his junior, there had been speculation on his future during the past couple of offseasons. Unfortunately for the 49ers it looks like his retirement just so happens to coincide with major rebuild elsewhere in the team.

The 49ers did at least ink lineman Darnell Dockett to a deal last week - perhaps aware of Smith's thoughts on retirement.

It is unlikely the team had a plan to be without Patrick Willis going forward though. The imposing linebacker is near impossible to replace - both in terms of on field contribution and off-field leadership. 

What do you think 49ers fans? Where do these moves leave the franchise? And how can Tomsula rescue the situation before the 2015 season? Let us know in the comments section below...

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