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Should the Browns take a chance on LT Trent Williams?

The seven-time Pro Bowl offensive line anchor isn’t coming back to D.C

Indianapolis Colts v Washington Redskins Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

If you caught the Browns’ 30-10 victory over the Washington Redskins in preseason action Thursday night, you might have noticed something was missing from the Redskins’ offense: seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams.

Williams has been a stalwart on the Redskins’ offensive line since being taken with the fourth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. But in Thursday’s preseason opener for both clubs, he wasn’t hurt. He isn’t on any suspended list. He didn’t miss the team flight to Cleveland, or has a note from his mom to not play.

According to a story on ESPN, Williams has stated that his time with the Redskins is done; he will no longer play in the nation’s capital and wishes to be traded or outright released. He is not finished with the game of football, mind you, just through with participating in the sport he loves in Washington, D.C.

NFL Network’s DeAngelo Hall got this information directly from Williams:

“(Williams) is in a good place mentally, and he’s prepared to figure this thing out. It’s not a contract thing. And that’s what I asked him — I’m sure he won’t mind me saying this. It’s not about money. Would money help ease things a little bit? Maybe so. But this is not strictly a financial situation that we’re discussing, and that’s what makes it so different and unorthodox and something we’ve never seen. We’ve never had a player say, ‘Hey, get that [athletic] training staff out of here or I’m not coming back.’”

Williams has been named to the Pro Bowl seven consecutive years from 2012 through last year. Many have stated last season was one of his finest years as a left tackle while playing for a stagnant offense. And since he has stated his time is complete on the only team he has played for, should Browns’ general manager John Dorsey attempt to trade for the mammoth Pro Bowler?

Who is Trent Williams?

As a standout at the University of Oklahoma, Williams did not start as a freshman but was inserted into the lineup in Week 8 after the starting right tackle was injured. He finished with six starts and was named to the Sporting News’ All-Freshman Second Team. In his sophomore campaign, he had six starts at right tackle. As a junior, he started every game with one start at left tackle and the other 13 at right tackle. That year’s offensive line only allowed 11 sacks all season and helped propel quarterback Sam Bradford into the national limelight. The Sooners would take the Big 12 Conference title all three of these years and then lost in the BCS Championship Game to Florida in Williams’ junior year.

Williams could have come out after his junior season and was projected as a low first-round pick in the NFL Draft, but decided to return to Oklahoma in an attempt to win a national championship. In pre-season rankings, he was listed as the second best offensive tackle and was placed on the 2009 Outland Trophy watch list. Oklahoma finished a disappointing 8-5 that season, but Williams was named to his second consecutive All-Big 12 First Team, plus was a unanimous All-American selection.

In the 2010 draft, Bradford went first overall to the St. Louis Rams, followed by Ndamukong Suh to the Detroit Lions, then the Tampa Bay Buccanneers selected defensive tackle Gerald McCoy before Williams’ name was called to join the Redskins. Since being in Washington, the 31-year-old Williams, who is 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, has started 119 out of 120 games.

As a rookie, he was named the starter in Week 1 of the 2010 season at left tackle. After only two seasons in the NFL, Williams was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2012 and has been named to this prestigious honor for seven seasons in a row. His nickname is “Silverback” in regards to the breed of gorillas. And yes, it has to do with him being a beast on the field which he obtained by his teammates.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Why does Williams want out of Washington?

This is not a disgruntled player who wants a new and better-paying contract, although on the surface you would think so. Currently, there are two exceptional running backs who are holding out because of a contract dispute. But not Williams. In the beginning of this holdout, the rumor was contractual - but that is far from the truth.

He did not show for any of the off-season OTAs and then the team’s mandatory mini-camp. When questioned about Williams’ absence, Redskins’ head coach Jay Gruden would explain and validate the notion that Williams was holding out for a larger paycheck.

The truth is, Williams has an ongoing issue with the Redskins’ medical staff about a non-malignant growth on his head and their subsequent medical procedures regarding the care he has encountered.

In the spring of this year, Williams discovered a growth on his head which gave him great concern. He consulted with the Redskins medical team, and he believes they mishandled the situation. Since that consultation, he got a second opinion from a private doctor and had the lump removed on his own accord in April. The test results came back benign. But the initial lack of concern by the Redskins’ staff and subsequent dismissal of it simply being “a lump and is nothing” has gotten to Williams. At one point, Williams thought the lump was serious which the opinion of several of his teammates was also.

Players have to know that the club’s medical specialists have their best concerns for the athlete. When a player loses trust in the medical team, it can become a big deal. Apparently, Williams now feels that way with the Redskins’ staff. Football is violent and physical. Injuries can happen in any practice or game, and players have to know that the care they receive is in their best interests as a person and not necessarily as a football player.

Williams has plenty of money, but if he doesn’t play he doesn’t get paid. He was cleared to participate in any Redskins’ camps including the mandatory June mini-camp, but decided instead to skip that. Gruden had this to say on about Williams’ absence on June 5:

“We have been talking to Trent a little bit here and there. He is not here [at practice], you are right. As far as holding out for whatever reasons, that is between Trent and Eric [Schaffer] and Bruce [Allen]. Hopefully, we’ll get it all situated soon and get him back here.”

Williams also did not report to training camp. Currently, the Redskins have placed him on the Reserve/Did Not Report List after the beginning of this year’s training camp. He has accrued over $500,000 in fines from his absence.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Should the Browns trade for Williams?

All throughout training camp, a lot of talk has been dedicated to whether the Browns’ offensive line can hold up and once again become the rock of the offense just like last season. Against the Redskins, left tackle Greg Robinson was exceptional. Right tackle Chris Hubbard played very well. Overall the first-team offensive line had a few bumps here and there, but nothing that would register the unit would spin into disaster mode.

The Redskins’ offense has several issues as does the defensive backfield, but they are stacked up front on the defensive line, so it’s not like Robinson and Hubbard were playing against some scrubs. Browns’ quarterback Baker Mayfield had plenty of time during his brief time on the field, and only once was forced to bounce outside the pocket in order to make a throw.

Williams’ contract is $10.85 million for 2019 with a cap hit of $14.579 million and he is the second-highest paid player for Washington. In 2015 he signed a $66 million contract extension for an additional five years, with a $43.25 million guarantee.

Dorsey has the cap space to absorb Williams’ contract. Currently, it is $35,640,153 so there is plenty of room for a multi-year Pro Bowler. The Browns were recently awarded with an extra fourth-round pick (which could become a third rounder) with the trade of running back Duke Johnson Jr. to the Houston Texans, which would appear to be a logical enticement for the Redskins.

And do not misunderstand where the Redskins’ stance is currently. They want Williams. They don’t want to lose Williams. They need Williams. Currently, they are alternating between 36-year-old Donald Penn and former first-round bust Ereck Flowers, whose multiple holding calls in Thursday night’s game kept aiding the Browns.

Adding Williams is the equivalent of a Major League Baseball club acquiring one of the league’s best closers. Plus, the Browns would become a viable trade partner in that they are in a different conference than the Redskins. General managers genuinely favor out-of-conference trades so that the traded player would not haunt them in the playoffs.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Where would the Browns use him?

All throughout training camp, the only question on the offensive line has been who would fill the right guard spot?

The second-team offensive tackles have had their issues. Right tackle Brad Seaton was inserted and could not stop Redskins’ rushing linebacker/defensive end Cassanova McKinzy on Thursday, while left tackle Kendall Lamm had problems also. Each held their own on running downs, but their pass protection needs work.

With this in mind, the backup tackles should be considered a major drop off. Currently, if either Robinson or Hubbard were injured, the offensive attack would suffer. One of the keys for Mayfield’s protection is for the front five to be really firm. Mayfield is not a big guy so he needs his front wall to keep the defensive line away from his body and more so to the other perimeters of the pass rush.

And more than any other element, the front five guys need work to help cohesion as a unified unit. They require time to develop the trust in order to develop non-verbal communication that is necessary for success. And make no mistake about it, the offense will only go as far as the offensive line will take them.

If Dorsey did indeed trade for Williams, it would need to be sooner than later.

But where would he play? He has been inserted at both tackles positions, but has only played left tackle at the professional level. And by the look at his Pro Bowl hardware, he has been viewed as the pinnacle of the left tackle spot in the NFL.

If he supplants Robinson (6-foot-5 and 330 pounds) at left tackle, where would Robinson go? He has predominately played left tackle, but while with the St. Louis Rams, he did play some left guard when former Cincinnati Bengals’ left tackle Andrew Whitworth was signed to play the position after Robinson’s skills were questioned. Later, he was switched to right tackle.

Cleveland Browns v Houston Texans
Chris Hubbard
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Is Robinson a better option at right tackle than Hubbard? Hubbard (6-foot-4 and 295 pounds) has had a checkered career in the NFL, but started all 16 games at right tackle last season for the Browns. Right tackle is his natural position, but does his size fit a guard’s profile? Could Robinson go to right tackle and Hubbard start at the vacant right guard slot?

Trading for Williams might mean wrecking what offensive line coach James Campen has built and painstakingly molded into what should be yet another successful unit. However, can you say no to a seven-time Pro Bowler such as Trent Williams? If nothing else, the Browns backup tackle would be a starting-caliber athlete instead of the current options of Seaton or Lamm.

This exact same offensive line cast that started the Redskins game was intact last year (with the exception of right guard), and did not allow a single sack in five of their last seven games.

Williams is always in the conversation for the best left tackle in the NFL. With him, you do not have to add a tight end or a running back to help out with assignments no matter who is lined up in front of him.

The big question still remains: should the Browns try to trade for Williams?


Should the Browns trade for Trent Williams?

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