SF 49ers free agency: 5 potential landing spots for Trent Williams
By Peter Panacy
The SF 49ers’ biggest-profile player hitting NFL free agency is Trent Williams, and he could end up with one of these five teams in 2021.
The SF 49ers are going to have an awfully tough time retaining the bulk of their 2021 NFL free agency class, which includes nearly 40 players, many of them high-profile names.
Chief among these is veteran offensive tackle Trent Williams, who was recently named to his eighth consecutive Pro Bowl after the Niners acquired him last offseason from the Washington Football Team in exchange for two mid-round NFL Draft picks.
Any question marks about Williams’ rust from sitting out all of 2019 were quickly erased, as he emerged as San Francisco’s best offensive lineman last season.
And one of the best in the entire NFL, as Pro Football Focus pointed out with his 91.9 overall grade — tops among all qualifying left tackles last year.
Williams, whose deal with the SF 49ers specifies the team’s inability to use the franchise tag, means he’ll be a sought-after commodity on the open market this offseason. While the 32-year-old veteran might not come as expensive as other younger top tackles, such as the Baltimore Ravens’ Ronnie Stanley or Houston Texans’ Laremy Tunsil, Williams could still command something in the range of $16 million to $18 million annually in a new contract.
With that in mind, here are five possible free-agent landing spots for Williams this offseason.
No. 5: SF 49ers
Williams has already expressed a desire to return to San Francisco in 2021, but he’s clearly wise to test his options.
Similarly, the SF 49ers have also signaled they want him back, too, especially given the question marks elsewhere along the offensive line. It’s best not to solve one void by creating another.
But the caveat is the Niners’ limited amount of cap space. Those 40-some-odd free agents notwithstanding, San Francisco has just over $22 million in projected cap space for 2021, and a would-be Williams deal would eat up a sizable portion of that amount, making it much more difficult for the front office to solve the rest of its roster woes.
Yes, there are ways to engineer more cap room, such as roster cuts, restructures and cap casualties. Yet it’s pretty clear the situation is going to be this: Williams or a number of other players. Not both.
Still, there remains a chance Williams wants to stay home with a team still poised to win now, and the SF 49ers seem intent on making him a top priority anyway.