Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams will be one of the most prized free agents this offseason, but he seems keen on the idea of returning to the San Francisco 49ers in 2021.
Williams spoke out recently about the possibility of remaining in the Bay Area, which has to have 49ers fans excited about the future.
Trent Williams seemingly confirms return to 49ers
San Francisco cornerback Richard Sherman is among the many Niners who are hitting the open market. While Sherman himself doesn’t expect to return, his exchange with Williams on a recent Cris Collinsworth Podcast interview appeared to tip the big man’s hand about his free agency plans.
“I think he stays in San Francisco,” said Sherman of Williams, per Pro Football Talk’s Curtis Crabtree. “I think he makes you guys happy for another [five to six] years and gets his gold jacket and then decides whether he wants it in Washington or San Francisco.”
Williams then replied, “That’s not a bad take. Y’all barking up the right tree.”
Any team would love a premier tackle like Williams, who’s still in his prime at age 32 and ranked as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 tackle in the NFL in 2020. The Checkdown highlighted how much of a beast Williams is as a run blocker and in pass protection:
The cost is going to be steep, though, so it’s a matter of who’s willing to pay up for the eight-time Pro Bowler.
The 49ers are among the most cap-rich teams, yet they also have 43 pending free agents, so they’re going to lose a lot of talent. To even re-sign multiple key players and shop for other players on the open market, it’ll take some serious cap gymnastics from general manager John Lynch and Co.
But it obviously bodes well for the team that Williams is publicly speaking out on the probable outcome that he’ll agree to a contract extension to stay with the team.
What can the 49ers do after they extend Trent Williams?
Bringing back Williams is such a lift to the offensive line and the offense in general operated by head coach and play-caller Kyle Shanahan. The larger question revolves around what the Niners will do at quarterback.
Given that a reunion between Garoppolo and the New England Patriots has been buzzed about recently, and the fact that the New York Jets own the second overall pick in the NFL Draft, it’d make sense for the 49ers to trade Garoppolo and move to acquire Darnold at a much cheaper price.
Even if San Francisco can’t find a trade suitor for Jimmy G, releasing him would save $23.6 million against the salary cap with a minimal dead money hit. That’d allow the 49ers to bolster other areas of the roster and retain other priority free agents.
Whichever quarterback is under center for the iconic Niners franchise this coming season, they should at least enjoy having Williams protecting them at a key position.
Shanahan’s system is difficult for any QB to pick up, and it takes all the players buying in and the big men up front to commit to the zone blocking scheme that defines the run-first attack. Williams shared time in Washington with Shanahan when the coach was then an offensive coordinator, so his familiarity with the offense helped him flourish in his first year with San Francisco last season.
Having someone with Williams’ elite abilities and understanding of the 49ers offense is invaluable, and will be a big factor in the team’s success going forward. All indications are Williams is all-in on playing for Shanahan for the remainder of his career.
If an upgrade over Garoppolo can be found and San Francisco’s defense doesn’t drop off with the departure of coordinator Robert Saleh, who’s now the Jets’ head coach, perhaps Williams will be the anchor to a championship-winning offense before he hangs up his cleats.