(KPIX) — The San Francisco 49ers remain NFC favorites to return to the Super Bowl. In the recently concluded NFL Draft, the team added first-round picks Javon Kinlaw, a defensive tackle out of South Carolina, and Brandon Aiyuk, a wide receiver out of Arizona Stare. Kinlaw will replace DeForest Buckner with little if any drop-off. Aiyuk should take over for Emmanuel Sanders as well.
But the 49ers added a third first-round pick later in the draft when they traded for former Washington Redskins Trent Williams. The offensive tackle was the Redskins’ first-round pick in 2010 (fourth overall) out of Oklahoma. And with stalwart left tackle Joe Staley announcing his retirement, he will take over the task of protecting Jimmy Garoppolo’s blind side. The pickup only cost the team a fifth-round pick this year and a third-round pick next year. He’s worth it.
Williams is 31 years old and hasn’t played since 2018. He has been among the game’s best left tackles during his time in the NFL, making the Pro Bowl in each of his last seven active seasons (2012-2018). The 6’5″, 320-pound tackle excels as a run blocker and in matchups with speedy and powerful edge rushers in the passing game. And he’s done it while playing for the Redskins, one of the NFL’s worst and most dysfunctional teams. Williams has generally remained healthy throughout his career, playing in at least 13 games in six of his nine active seasons, 120 games overall.
For four of his seasons — 2010 – 2013 — Williams player under then-Skins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Washington’s offense those years displayed some similarities to San Francisco’s of late. And that familiarity should ease the task of adjusting.
Sometime in early 2019, Williams and the Redskins had a huge falling out. The star left tackle held out until the end of October 2019 and didn’t play at all last season. The reason, initially assumed to be contractual, actually stems from how the Redskins handled a growth on Williams’ head that turned out to be cancerous. The player had been alerting team doctors to the growth since the 2013 season. But the team didn’t seek a diagnosis until five years later, when it was found to be cancerous and promptly removed.
Williams had long since lost all trust in the Redskins organization, and it’s been obvious for awhile that he will never play for the team again. However, only recently had the team given him permission to seek a trade. Plenty of other teams, including the Browns, Vikings and Jets, were interested in securing the services of a proven, top-flight left tackle, especially for the $12.5 million his contract will pay him this year. But suitors fell away as the draft progressed and teams selected their left tackles of the future.
Earlier in the trade dance between Williams and the Redskins, it was reported that the tackle was looking to be paid somewhere closer to $20 million per season. That has been put on the back burner in light of Williams’ extended absence and the general uncertainty surrounding the 2020 NFL season. Hopefully the newly arrived tackle will have the chance to prove his worth. If anybody can fill Joe Staley’s big shoes, it’s Trent Williams.