I bet the 49ers thought Trent Williams would be affordable, but he's not. Not for them.
They should let him walk in free agency.
They tried to get him to agree to a contract extension before Week 17 and he rejected it, according to reports. A few days later after the season finale, Williams explained why:
"I may want to see my value. I've been 11 years in this league, and I have yet to see a franchise left tackle go to the open market. I think it would be interesting to see what the value holds. Last year, I didn't feel like I had a very high value. I feel like I was devalued in a lot of ways. And I know I always put a good product on the field, but I think my character was questioned a lot. And there was a time when I was being told there were no suitors looking to trade for me. So I thought my value took a huge hit. I want to see what that true value is now that everybody can shoot their shot without having to go through anybody."
Sounds like Williams wants to prove a point to his doubters, whoever they might be. Sounds like he wants money more than he wants to win a Super Bowl. So one way or another, he will become the highest-paid offensive lineman of all time this offseason, because he's that good. Meaning the 49ers would have to give him an average of at least $24 million per season to keep him.
That's quarterback money.
The 49ers certainly could give Williams all that cash and backload the deal, but they still would have the worst offensive line in the league. The 49ers gave up 78 quarterback hits last season -- by far the most in the NFL. And Williams was on that line. And he misses games. He hasn't played a full 16-game season since 2013.
And if the 49ers were to make Williams the highest-paid offensive lineman ever, they would lose most of their other free agents, because Williams and Jimmy Garoppolo would take up more than 26 percent of the 49ers cap space. Two guys who can't stay on the field.
Not a recipe for success.
The 49ers should let some other team pay Williams as if he's a Hall of Fame quarterback, and then the 49ers should replace him with a reasonably-priced left tackle in free agency. They could sign 32-year-old Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who never has missed a start in his career, for $15 million per season, then sign a starting center with the money left over and the offensive line actually would improve.
That's what the Patriots would do.
See ya, Trent. Nothing personal.