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49ers rumors: San Francisco hard at work on Trent Williams contract extension

The San Francisco 49ers are rumored to be negotiating a contract extension for star left tackle Trent Williams, who's slated to hit free agency in 2021.

49ers rumors: San Francisco hard at work on Trent Williams contract extension
Nov 29, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Trent Williams (71) before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers had something of a lost 2020 season due primarily to key injuries, but the team got 14 starts out of elite left tackle Trent Williams and want him with the team for the long haul.

Recent buzz suggests San Francisco is toiling away behind the scenes at the dawn of its offseason to ensure the eight-time Pro Bowler remains in a 49ers uniform for 2021 and beyond.

49ers rumors: San Francisco making Trent Williams contract a huge priority

ESPN insider Jeremy Fowler provided the details on the discussions the Niners and Williams have been holding about a new deal:

This might seem like a no-brainer and not come as a shock at all to the 49ers faithful, yet it’s more complicated than that. General manager John Lynch has a ton of pending free agents to worry about. Williams also turns 33 in July, and the shelf life for being a top-flight tackle vastly varies across the league.

Considering he forced his way out of an unsavory situation with the Washington Football Team and only played one season under head coach Kyle Shanahan, it stands to reason Williams probably won’t want to change teams for the third time in as many seasons. That should help the Niners get a deal done, but there will be no shortage of suitors if Williams hits the open market.

49ers rumors: Can San Francisco meet Trent Williams’ market value?

San Francisco 49ers rumors: Trent Williams, NFL free agent
October 4, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Trent Williams (71) during the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

According to Pro Football Focus’ grades, Williams was the No. 1 offensive tackle in all of football this season. That’s going to cost the Niners a pretty penny. Williams also achieved such status in PFF’s rankings during the 2013 and 2016 seasons, so he’s shown his incredible ability in years past.

Sitting out for the entire 2019 campaign allowed Williams to return to the gridiron refreshed and in elite form. Now he stands to cash in more than he probably could have otherwise. Whether that means he remains in San Francisco or goes somewhere else is unclear.

Given that Williams shared the first four years of his pro career with Shanahan — who was Washington’s offensive coordinator during that time — there are strong in-house ties to suggest the Niners can get a deal done. How that impacts their salary cap situation and ability to add other players may be the bigger story here.

Cornerback Richard Sherman has already said he doesn’t expect to be back, what with Williams and others set to get massive paydays. All told, there are 44 pending free agents on San Francisco’s current roster, per Over the Cap. Talk about a headache.

The biggest, most recent extension for a left tackle was for injured Green Bay Packers star David Bakhtiari, who’s in a four-year, $92 million deal. The Niners enter 2021 with $13.5 million in effective cap space.

Due to the uncertainty there and the aforementioned familiarity with Shanahan, perhaps Williams would entertain playing under the franchise tag in 2021 if a long-term contract extension can’t be struck. However, it bodes well the two sides are at least negotiating in good faith as of right now.

Perhaps the biggest decision the Niners will make is on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. In spite of his 22-8 record as a regular-season starter and his guiding the team to a Super Bowl LIV appearance, Jimmy G could well be on the outs this offseason.

Even if San Francisco cuts Garoppolo outright rather than biding its time to trade him, that’ll save at least $24 million in cap room.

With the flexibility to go with a quarterback in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft or signing or trading for a different veteran, the question is whether Williams is on board with whatever strategy the front office deploys. Who the quarterback is will likely go a long way in determining how eager Williams is to re-sign with San Francisco for the long haul.