Washington Redskins Coach Ron Rivera had hoped to convince left tackle Trent Williams to return to the team, but now that the team is allowing Williams to seek a potential trade, Rivera might have to look elsewhere to find a replacement at the offensive line’s most important position.
March 16 is the first day teams can start talking to free agents, and Washington will want to know how much money it has to spend and what positions it needs to fill. If Williams isn’t an option at left tackle, Rivera will need to look for alternatives quickly. The good news for the Redskins is that if they trade or cut Williams, they should have roughly $73 million of salary cap room. The bad news is they not only will have to find a starting left tackle but also a quarterback to compete with Dwayne Haskins, at least one tight end, a cornerback, a potential starting wide receiver and possibly a safety as well as fill depth in other places.
Here’s a look at where Rivera might find his next left tackle.
Not many top-level left tackles hit free agency these days, certainly not ones who are seven-time Pro Bowl players and still relatively young like the 31-year-old Williams.
The best free agent tackle is Indianapolis’s Anthony Castonzo, but Colts General Manager Chris Ballard announced last week that Castonzo intends to return to Indianapolis next season, making it unlikely he will be an option. Washington’s staff knows Carolina’s Daryl Williams well, though Williams — who has played tackle — spent last season at left guard.
Rivera’s top option might be Philadelphia’s Jason Peters, who still played well last season on the seeming bargain of a one-year $6 million contract. The Redskins could sign Peters, 38, to a one- or two-year deal and take another tackle late in the draft to develop behind him. Tennessee’s versatile backup tackle Dennis Kelly also could be a short-term answer.
Donald Penn, who started in Williams’s absence last season, is another possibility. But while Penn, 36, played decently, Rivera’s staff might want to start with someone new.
On Thursday, the Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Chargers made a rare player-for-player deal when Carolina sent guard Trai Turner to the Chargers for left tackle Russell Okung. Tackles do come available in the trade market.
For instance, the Miami Dolphins traded their starting left tackle, Laremy Tunsil, to the Houston Texans for two first-round and one second-round pick last year. Tunsil, who is just 25, is looking for a new contract that could pay him up to $19 million a year. Perhaps the Redskins would be willing to do this for a player six years younger than Williams should Houston decide it can’t placate Tunsil.
But the Redskins probably don’t have the players on their roster to make such a trade, nor do they have enough picks at the top of the draft to entice a team to send them a starting left tackle, making such a deal more challenging. They could be clever in a possible Williams trade, possibly swapping him for a left tackle or using the pick they get in exchange to draft one.
Rivera has said he likes the team’s young offensive linemen and trusts his longtime offensive line coach, John Matsko, to develop them. Still, it is hard to see any of the Redskins’ backup offensive linemen moving into the starting lineup.
Geron Christian, a 2018 third-round pick, has not developed into the player Washington hoped despite having plenty of opportunity to play during the time Williams was hurt in 2018 and when he sat out all of 2019 in a dispute with the Redskins and former team president Bruce Allen. Christian never could earn the playing time, forcing the Redskins to find other solutions at the position.
While some still believe in Christian’s potential, he would have to make a significant leap to show he can be trusted at such a critical position.
This may become the Redskins’ most likely solution. This is a good year for left tackles in the draft, with as many as four expected to go in the first 10 to 12 picks. With the second overall pick, Rivera could take any of them, including Georgia’s Andrew Thomas or Louisville’s Mekhi Becton. And yet Washington probably wants to use that choice on Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young or possibly Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
They also could trade the pick to a team that wants Young or Tagovailoa and move down enough to still select a top lineman and collect enough additional picks to fill another hole on the roster, perhaps at wide receiver.
If they go ahead and draft Young or Tagovailoa, however, they can still draft a quality tackle who might develop into a starter with Matsko’s coaching. Houston’s promising Josh Jones, Louisiana Lafayette’s Robert Hunt or Texas Tech’s Terence Steele could be available when Washington (which doesn’t have a second-round pick) chooses again at the start of the third round.