Well, now that we know that LA Chargers GM Tom Telesco is finally open to player trades, we might as well ask whether or not he’d be open to filling the void at left tackle he just created by making another deal. And for the player who was selected two picks ahead of Russell Okung 10 years ago.
As Washington’s left tackle from 2010-2018, Trent Williams had seven Pro Bowl appearances and has long been considered the superior protector and blocker to Okung, though he too is not without his injury concerns. Williams played in 16 games only twice and over his last four seasons with Washington he missed 15 games. He then sat out all of 2019 after a combination of events, including a dispute with the team’s medical staff over a growth turned out to be cancerous. Williams demanded a trade but when none was reached, he continued to stay away from the team.
During a physical examination, Williams reported physical discomfort with wearing a helmet due to the growth being removed, which had been on his head. At this time, I would say most are expecting that if Williams is traded to a team, they won’t have concerns about him holding out or being able to wear a helmet, as another exam would be completed anyway.
Williams has one year and a $12.5 million base salary left on his contract. He has not emphasized a desire for a new deal but it would likely come part and parcel with a trade.
The good news for any team acquiring Williams is that they are getting an elite left tackle, which is rare to find. It’s why the Carolina Panthers were willing to give up a 26-year-old perennial Pro Bowl guard for Okung. Were that team to be the Chargers, it not only changes the makeup of their offensive line — upgrading not just right guard with Trai Turner but left tackle with Williams — but perhaps their objectives with the sixth overall pick. Not that LA even has to write off taking a tackle first, they’d obviously have yet another reason to believe that the line will be a strength next season after being such a weakness last, but it becomes less of a concern. And right now, left tackle is empty. So is right tackle, kinda.
The concerning aspect of a deal would be Williams’ age and health. Williams turns 32 in July and that’s around the time that things begin to get dicey for many of our greatest pass protectors. Orlando Pace started to go downhill at 31. Walter Jones was a Pro Bowler until 34, but play fell off around 32. Joe Thomas played his last full season at 32. Jonathan Ogden had his last full season at 31, retired after 33. Chris Samuels, done at 32.
Look around the NFL today and you will find plenty of viable tackles who are older than Trent Williams: Andrew Whitworth is 38, Duane Brown is 34, Joe Staley is 35. This is not to say that Williams can’t play for another five years at a high level, but it is worth emphasizing — especially for an oft injured player — that he is 32. Williams did get an entire season off and maybe feels more ready than ever, but there’s going to be the element of mystery with Williams and a hesitancy to pay him $16 million annually on a new deal at this time.
Then of course, there’s figuring out whatever the trade compensation is. In the case of Okung, it was Trai Turner. Would Williams cost a second round pick? A fifth? Swapping a third for a fourth and adding a player? That’s harder to predict because in addition to age and injuries, there’s the element of a player who may have privately already told the team, “I’m never playing for you again.” (Williams shared this sentiment not privately already, but reports have since say he’s softened on the stance after the hiring of Ron Rivera.)
Williams is an option. Is he the best option, however?