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Free Agent Spotlight: LT Trent Williams

If the Buccaneers decide to move on from Donovan Smith, Trent Williams would be a great option.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Trent Williams (71) during the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Next up on the list is Trent Williams, one of the NFL’s premier left tackles who just came off a very good year in San Francisco.

The eight-time Pro Bowl selection appears to be entering free agency just one year after the 49ers traded a 2020 fifth round pick and a 2021 third round pick to the Washington Football Team. This came after the relationship between the Football Team and their franchise left tackle fell apart due to issues he had with their medical staff.

While Williams has reportedly shown favor in re-signing with the 49ers, nothing is set in stone at this point and Williams could end up a Buccaneer. Crazier things have happened in the NFL after all.

Trent Williams’ Career Thus Far

Williams was drafted fourth overall by the Washington Football Team in 2010 after being seen as one of-if not the-best offensive tackles in that draft class. He was inserted as a starter right away but did struggle a bit as he allowed 11 sacks that season.

After his initial struggles, it started to become clear that Williams was one of the best tackles that the NFL had to offer. The combination of size, agility, and pure strength really helped to solidify him in that spot which can be seen through his eight Pro Bowl selections.

While Williams did make the Pro Bowl in 2012, his breakout season looks to be in 2013, at least when looking at Pro Football Focus. Despite allowing the second highest sack total in his career in 2013 with eight, PFF rated him as one of the best tackles in the league that year.

Since then, he has continued to rack up high PFF grades and Pro Bowl selections. However, in 2019 Williams missed the entire season due to the issue that was discussed earlier in regards to his grievance with the Washington Football Team medical staff.

After taking off an entire year, there were questions about how ready he would be entering into the 2020 season. Fortunately for the 49ers, and any fans of Williams himself, he ended up putting together one of the best seasons of his career.

Despite being in his 30’s, the 2020 season made it clear that his age doesn’t matter...at least for now. According to PFF, he was the top rated tackle in the NFL last season and this should leave any free agent suitors feeling confident in Williams’ abilities to continue playing at a dominant level.

Why It Works

Well, it kind of doesn’t. But that’s only because Williams wouldn’t sign with a team to be a backup, nor would he take a backup contract (most likely). However, if the Bucs decide to move off of Donovan Smith, they would have the money and the need to sign a guy like Williams.

Despite Smith’s end of season/post-season heroics, there isn’t any comparison when it comes to comparing these two players’ careers. While Williams may be older than Smith, he does carry a much better reputation amongst the league.

Even though the Buccaneers do value Smith very highly, they may look at someone like Williams on the open market and choose to upgrade the position. Regardless of Smith’s improvement though, he has trouble matching Williams in overall dominance.

Just look at a clip from the 49ers Week 10 game against the Saints:

This is a zone run play here which requires a reach block from Williams to lock down the three-technique defensive tackle, Malcolm Roach. What makes this block so difficult is that the defensive line line is slanting away from his side, which leaves that much more room to cover before he can make contact.

Yet he makes a perfect block anyway. Just think about how agile and strong he has to be to swing all of his body weight in the opposite direction all while securing a block on a 290lb man.

Here’s another look at a block against a bull-rush from Trey Hendrickson that Williams locks up with ease:

You know how they say, “low man wins”? Well, that’s not true here. Even though Hendrickson comes in lower and with inside position, Williams just anchors down and bench presses him out of the pocket.

While these two plays aren’t necessarily the huge pancake blocks that you’ve probably seen from Williams last season, they are perfect examples of what the average play looks like for the guy.

Don’t get too set on him yet though, there are quite a few moves that would need to happen before Williams can end up in a Buccaneer uniform. But would he work in Tampa Bay? I say most definitely.

But...

Remember those moves I was mentioning just a moment ago? Well, here they are.

The Buccaneers would have to decide that they don’t want Smith long term. While this may be something that many Bucs fans would want to have happen, I just don’t think this coaching staff feels the same way.

On top of that, the Buccaneers would have to convince Williams to come to Tampa Bay to finish off his career, all while earning around $14.25 million. While I don’t know what his contract demands will be, it will take some convincing to leave Kyle Shanahan, who has been his coach in two cities now.

Thinking about the future, I don’t think Williams is as long term of a solution as Smith would be, and left tackles don’t grow on trees. While his age hasn’t been an issue as of yet, it will be relatively soon.

At 33, Williams has another five or six years if you’re looking at this in the context of best case scenario. As we’ve seen from all of the NFL greats (outside of Tom Brady), age does catch up and many times, it catches up quickly.

Smith is only 28 and he is still steadily improving. From a longevity standpoint, Smith just makes a lot more sense. However, are they looking to retain a franchise left tackle like Smith? Or will they want to just take the short-term upgrade in an attempt to win another Super Bowl?

What’s the Cost?

I guess it really depends on who you ask. Over the Cap has Williams’ valued at around $16.3 million/yr, Spotrac has him valued at $18.2 million/yr, and PFF has him at $20 million/yr.

If the Bucs want to sign Williams, cutting Donovan Smith and saving $14.25 million might not even be enough according to these projections. As of now, the Bucs don’t have any cap space and therefore wouldn’t have any more money to spend on top of the $14.25 million.

If Williams demands above that amount, I doubt the Bucs could make it happen without some nifty cap maneuvering. But as we’ve seen in the past, this front office knows how to make things happen.

What We Don’t Know

There are a few things we don’t know. First, do the Bucs want to move on from Donovan Smith? Despite his improvement, Williams is an upgrade but then again, only temporarily.

Second, we also don’t know what Williams wants to be paid. At his age, this is probably going to be one of the last big contracts that he signs. It really would be up to him if he would be willing to take less than his projections (and probably what his agent is asking for) in exchange for the chance to win a ring.

Even with potential cap maneuvering, there’s no telling if the Bucs want to continue piling voidable years at the end of contacts, especially because they’ve been very careful not to do so in the past.

Make the Decision

What do you think? Should the Bucs make the necessary moves to bring Williams in? How much are you concerned with the future of the position? Let us know in the comments and poll below!

Poll

When it comes to Trent Williams, what would you have the Buccaneers do?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Sign him, no matter what
    (19 votes)
  • 27%
    Make an offer, but keep it reasonable
    (61 votes)
  • 15%
    Invite him for a cup of coffee and see where it goes
    (33 votes)
  • 10%
    Call him up if they have a need after the NFL draft
    (23 votes)
  • 38%
    Don’t need him
    (84 votes)
220 votes total Vote Now