Whether Or Not The Browns Acknowledge It, Trading For Trent Williams A Terrible Idea
Between the draft compensation it would require as well as the demand for a contract extension, any notion of the Cleveland Browns trading for offensive tackle Trent Williams needs to die. The Browns haven't ruled it out in the same way they've ruled almost nothing out, keeping their options open, but a move for Williams now is an even worse idea than it was when John Dorsey was desperately reaching for it in the midst of a lost season last year. The Browns should use their top pick in the upcoming NFL Draft to address the position for the next several years, whether it's at 10th pick or after trading down.
It would be punting on the position in a draft class that is remarkably strong and could not line up more perfectly for the Browns. Even if they are unable to get a Tristan Wirfs from Iowa or Andrew Thomas from Georgia with their 10th pick, they are likely going to have opportunities to trade back and then grab players like Josh Jones from Houston or Ezra Cleveland from Boise State. Those are both remarkably talented players and in other classes, would be appreciated as prizes to be had as opposed to something to be settled for in this one.
Trent Williams is a tremendous talent and an excellent scheme fit. He's also a temporary solution for a position that needs a more permanent one. The offense, as currently constituted, is largely in tact for the next two seasons at least. The difference between Williams and getting a tackle in the first round of the 2020 draft is an offensive line that will can be together for the next three years at least with the oldest member of the group being their center, J.C. Tretter, who is 29 years old.
The Browns also hired one of the best offensive line coaches in the world in Bill Callahan. And while Williams admires him and would love to play for him again, the reason the Browns hired him was to be able to raise the level of the play of the unit, not simply be there with four extremely well paid linemen, maybe coaching up the right guard.
Consider the impact Callahan had in one season coaching Ereck Flowers. Flowers, the ninth pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, was a massive bust for the New York Giants. The Redskins signed him as a reclamation project. Flowers deserves a ton of credit for his own work and effort in becoming a more effective player, but he was good enough playing for the Redskins, under Callahan, that the Miami Dolphins were willing to offer him a three-year $30 million contract.
A contract extension with Williams would be significantly more expensive than a rookie contract, either with the 10th pick or later in the first round. Devin Bush, the 10th pick of the 2019 NFL Draft made under $3.5 million his rookie season. Though his agent disputes it, Trent Williams is reportedly demanding five times that much. Even if Williams was to simply make the amount he's scheduled for in 2020, which is $14.5 million, not an unreasonable amount for what Williams can do, it's still a big difference for the Browns and their management of the salary cap.
The difference of $9 million might not only represent the difference between the ability to sign a potential impact player or multiple role players, if the Browns were to roll it over into 2021, that would be a difference of $18 million the Browns wouldn't have at their disposal. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the salary cap is expected to increase significantly over the next few years after increasingly below projections this year.
Trent Williams is a great player and there are teams that make sense to make a move for him. The Browns simply aren't one of them and even if they won't rule out the possibility that they could trade for Williams, that is how they should be operating. They should focus on the tackle they wish to select in the draft in April, putting another piece in place on an offense that could largely be together for several years, building cohesion and establishing what should be the engine for the team.