Getting Williams to play for the Redskins again is “still a huge focus for Ron,” the person said, adding that the “tea leaves” indicate Williams will be back.
Williams, 31, held out for all of last year’s offseason activities and training camp, as well as the first half of the season. He had demanded a trade because he was unhappy with the way the team’s medical staff had handled a growth on his head that turned out to be cancerous. Williams returned to the club just minutes before the Oct. 29 trade deadline but was placed on the non-football injury list. He said the team told him not to come back to the facility.
In November, Williams said he didn’t see a way his broken relationship with the team could be fixed. But that was before team president Bruce Allen and longtime trainer Larry Hess were fired and Rivera was hired to run the organization’s football operations. One of Rivera’s first moves as coach was to hire respected trainer Ryan Vermillion, hoping it would help convince Williams to return.
Two weeks ago, a person with knowledge of the situation said that Rivera and Williams had been in contact and that the two might meet at the team’s facility at some point.
With the start of free agency just three weeks away, Williams is a critical piece of the team’s offseason plans. If he returns, Rivera can fill a huge hole on the offensive line with a player who is considered one of the NFL’s best left tackles. The Redskins can then turn their attention to retaining guard Brandon Scherff before he hits unrestricted free agency next month, either by giving Scherff a contract extension or using the franchise tag on him.
Williams is going into the final season of a five-year, $66 million extension he signed in 2015. He had preliminary discussions with the team about another extension late in the 2018 season, and he could insist on a contract extension as a condition of his return.
After releasing cornerback Josh Norman, tight end Jordan Reed and wide receiver Paul Richardson Jr. in recent days, the Redskins have roughly $61 million in salary cap space, according to the salary website Over the Cap. They can clear more room by giving Williams an extension — he counts for $14.75 million against the cap — which could allow Washington to give Scherff a new contract and address other offseason needs, such as wide receiver, tight end and defensive back.
This week, Rivera picked up the 2020 option for running back Adrian Peterson, who is one of Williams’s close friends and business partners.
If Rivera and Williams can’t come to an agreement, the Redskins could trade him. Last year, an executive from another NFL team suggested Washington could get a second-round draft pick for Williams. The Redskins don’t have a second-round selection. Trading Williams would save the team $12.75 million of cap space but also would leave Rivera scrambling to find a replacement. There aren’t many starting left tackles available in free agency, and while many tackles are projected to go in the first two rounds of April’s draft, picking one might not be as appealing as bringing back Williams.