49ers roster 2021: Trent Williams now a mainstay

Trent Williams #71 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Trent Williams #71 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

After massive uncertainty whether or not he’d return, Trent Williams and the 49ers will join forces for the long-term future beginning with a key 2021 year.

Remember how the San Francisco 49ers‘ biggest offseason concern heading into 2021 was whether or not eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams would return to the Niners after being acquired in that 2020 draft-day trade with the Washington Football Team?

Even if Williams had departed, and apparently it was awfully close, San Francisco dishing off two mid-round picks to Washington for just one year’s worth of Williams’ services would have been worthwhile.

After re-signing Williams to a massive six-year, $138 million new contract, the 49ers look almost as if they got away with highway robbery for a player who’ll likely be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day.

Trent Williams Games Played Table
9 yr9 yrWAS1201192
1 yr1 yrSFO1414

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 7/23/2021.

On an average annual basis of $23.01 million, Williams is now the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history.

Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Yes. And even though Williams is on the wrong side of 30 years old, the Niners fully intend to see him through that deal as long as possible.

And by doing so, San Francisco ensured the entirety of its offensive line would trend upwards heading into 2021 and beyond.

Why Trent Williams improves with 49ers in 2021

49ers fans may wholly disagree. But Pro Football Focus actually ranked the Niners’ 2020 offensive line No. 9 overall at the conclusion of last season. Strange, considering right tackle Mike McGlinchey’s struggles, revolving doors at both center and right guard, and a general lack of pass-blocking effectiveness outside of Williams’ efforts.

It’s safe to say that ranking would have been significantly lower if Williams wasn’t in the picture a year ago.

Williams’ 91.9 PFF grade last year was the highest out of all left tackles, too, and yet there’s actually going to be room for improvement.

There were times last year when Williams wasn’t quite in sync with left guard Laken Tomlinson, although those issues were shored up by year’s end. A full season under their belt together, combined with the addition of center Alex Mack, should allow for Williams have far more consistency than he had in 2020.

Let’s see if PFF recognizes that.

Why Trent Williams regresses with 49ers in 2021

At this point in his career, there’s effectively only two ways where Williams has a down season in 2021: injury or age-related regression.

There were concerns how effective Williams was going to be last year after electing to sit out all of 2019 while on something of a contract dispute with Washington.

Williams getting his eighth Pro Bowl nod and being named PFF’s top tackle sure put a stop to those questions, however, and the inability to settle any sort of long-term agreement with Washington surely benefited San Francisco, too, while allowing Williams to rest his body.

Still, now 33 years old, Williams is reaching that point where his productiveness will be called into question every offseason from now until he actually begins to regress or retires.

Fortunately, offensive linemen don’t have as sharp a regression as some other positions in football, and the hope Williams’ own drop-off will be a slow one and not totally recognized for the next few years.

Projected impact with 49ers in 2021

It’s crazy to think the 49ers were losing their former legendary left tackle, Joe Staley, and replaced him with Williams in one swift move a year ago.

While the Niners have had their share of headaches at other positions over three different decades, it’s amazing to think they’ve effectively boasted two of the best left tackles over a span that’ll stretch nearly 20 years.

Provided Williams hits the end of his contract, and it appears as if that’ll be the goal.

Related Story: Ranking top 10 offensive linemen in 49ers history

Williams was the high-profile offseason move for San Francisco along its O-line. Grabbing Mack was the next major addition, while new NFL Draft picks like Aaron Banks and Jaylon Moore figure to infuse some much-needed youth for a position group that’ll be a bit up there in age, especially with Williams and Mack in tow.

Still, Williams is the pinnacle and elite player of this group, and the 49ers O-line will effectively follow his lead this season.

And for a long, long time.

Next. Ranking 49ers' top 10 trades in franchise history. dark