The San Francisco 49ers have made quite a few interesting calls this offseason.
From trading DeForest Buckner, to trading up for Brandon Aiyuk. Every single one of these moves can be viewed as questionable, especially the Buckner trade. The 49ers just added another interesting call to the list, which is the restructuring of offensive tackle Trent Williams' contract.
San Francisco reworked Williams' deal so that they prorated his salary. Meaning he'll get a sweet chunk of his salary up front as opposed to waiting for game checks. The kicker in his restructured deal is that the 49ers cannot franchise tag him after the season when his contract is up.
This move is the 49ers operating in good faith and showing Williams that they are not playing any games. That it is possible for a franchise to be transparent and up front to their players. The two sides will hope to pick up talks regarding a long-term deal after 2020.
While it is an admirable and typical move by the 49ers, they are rolling the dice with this. Williams, assuming he picks up where he left off, is a Pro Bowl caliber player. He is among the league's best offensive tackles. The amount of money he will command if he plays at a high level will be groundbreaking. Another team can easily poach him away and offer him a lucrative deal, which is very likely since the 49ers are not in the greatest salary cap shape.
Not to mention that there are two guys by the name of George Kittle and Richard Sherman who are waiting in the wings for a new deal.
Will the 49ers regret restructuring Williams' contract?
Well, the way they are looking at it is that they are siding with Williams here and are giving him their trust. Given how horrible of an experience he had with the Washington Redskins, the 49ers figure that they can get Williams to plant his feet with the team.
But the risk cannot be overlooked nor neglected. Williams can easily just say, "Deuces!" and walk at the first sign of a high sum of money. He would be justified in doing so since he is heading towards his mid-30s.
Gambling on Williams is certainly high-stakes since he plays left tackle. If he walks, then the 49ers will have a major hole on the offensive line.
However, I believe the 49ers are making the right call with Williams.
This is a franchise that has held itself to its own standards of transparency and a culture that echoes selflessness. Just look at how they handled the Buckner trade. Yes, it can always be viewed as questionable, but they were open with Buckner about everything. It's not like they snaked him and caught him off-guard.
The 49ers have been this way ever since Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch took on their respective roles. Another example is how they treated NaVorro Bowman. They knew they didn't have him in their future plans. Rather than trade him against his will and get compensation, they traded him outright.
So this team has continuously operated in good faith with their players. Not a single complaint has emerged from the locker room. Great coaching and talent is what got this team to the Super Bowl last season, but their culture can definitely be factored in as well because it allows players to buy in and play for one another.
Restructuring Williams' deal, no matter how you look at it, is a risk. And the 49ers could have handled it differently. But this how they have operated since 2017, which has been a recipe that has garnered positive results.