Cleveland Browns not dysfunctional enough to meet Trent Williams asking price, but….
The Cleveland Browns would be crazy to trade draft picks and overpay an aging star offensive lineman, but a salary cap deal is barely possible.
The Cleveland Browns are not dysfunctional enough to meet the current asking price for star offensive tackle Trent Williams and his agent Vincent Taylor of Elite Loyalty Sports Agency.
According to John Keim of ESPN, several of his sources say that the ask is currently $20 million dollars. Plus, since Williams is not a free agent, the Browns are supposed to throw in a draft pick or two to reward Washington for their role in this contractual mess. Washington thinks they are going to get a number two draft pick, but that is insane. Not even the Browns could be that cuckoo.
Washington is a financial disaster, after having tied up quarterback Alex Smith to a $94 million dollar contract, only to have him suffer a terrible injury last year. If Smith cannot regain his health, the Redskins are going to have eat an unprecedented amount of salary cap, $32 million in dead money. If you thought Sashi Brown’s slash and burn approach in 2016-2017 was too severe, that was a walk in the park compared to what the Redskins will experience.
That level of chaos is no place for a veteran star like Trent Williams, and it makes sense for him and his agent seek a new team that can afford to pay a big salary to an offensive tackle who will be 32 years old this season.
However, William’s contract is too high to facilitate a trade. According to Spotrac.com, Williams is currently paid $14.5 million n terms of salary cap hit for 2020, which ranks him 9th overall among tackles. That’s not exactly chump change.
What has he done to earn a pay raise? Well, Williams’s career to this point has been on a Hall of Fame trajectory, no question about that. He made it to seven consecutive Pro Bowls. But look at the games played by year.
The last time he played 16 games was 2013. After that, games played trend downward: 15, 14, 12, 10, 13 and finally zero last season. Last year Williams held out for eight games, and when he finally reported, he was unable to wear a football helmet due to discomfort from off-season surgery to remove a growth from his head. So really he missed eight games for a physical reason and eight more as a dubious negotiating ploy. Does this sound like Williams is another Joe Thomas at this stage of his career?
In 2018, the last year he played, he made it to the Pro Bowl again, but Pro Football Focus graded him at only 75.6. That would have corresponded to about 18th overall highest grade among tackles if he were to be graded the same in 2019. For comparison, the 18th highest salary among tackles is in the range of $12 million, or slightly lower than what Washington was paying him. He is currently overvalued and is not getting any younger.
So, it is time for a reality check. Forgetting about the process that got Williams to the point, it is best for Williams to leave Washington now. A young team in the middle of rebuilding is not the place for him. In addition, Washington cannot afford to overpay Williams while also sucking up $32 million in quarterback salary cap.
Washington must face the fact that the Browns or some other team are not going to give draft picks to reward Washington. This is like the Brock Osweiler situation in which the Houston Texans had to reward Cleveland with a second-round draft pick (Nick Chubb) for taking on a vastly overvalued contract.
Washington would have to give the Browns a draft pick to cause them to pick up Williams’ contract, which is just too high. Is Washington bright enough to realize how desperate their position is?
A formula that makes sense to this fan is the Browns give up a 2020 pick (say, third round) and Washington trades a higher pick (say second round) in 2021. Washington gets cap relief and drafts a starting player in 2020. That way the Browns build their future draft portfolio while getting immediate help.
Alternatively, Williams might decide to facilitate a deal by accepting a renegotiated contract with cap-friendly terms. By manipulating the salary and bonus rules, the first-year cap number could be reduced compared to the contract average, and yet Williams can take home some extra money to his family this year. That might be a way for everyone to save face, because a true pay raise for 2020 does not seem likely.
The “win now, pay later” deal makes more sense for a veteran team looking for one more Super Bowl run, but probably not the Browns who need to build through the draft in the future.