So when Williams’s agent issued a statement Tuesday claiming, among other things, “the Redskins have shown no interest in negotiating in good faith,” it seemed somewhere between believable and likely. Thursday, the agent, Vince Taylor, doubled-down in a radio interview, saying there’s “no relationship” between Williams and new Washington coach Ron Rivera. Since mayhem has long ruled Washington’s operations, both claims were believable. Why would it change now?
Except it has changed. And that makes Taylor’s indignance on behalf of Williams — in which he demands Washington trade or release him — both unfounded and unbecoming.
When and if Trent Williams plays his next competitive snap of football, he will be 32. His most recent action came on the second-to-last day of 2018. He last played as many as 14 games in 2015, last played a full season in 2013, just one of three seasons in a 10-year career in which he didn’t miss at least some time with injury.
Is it realistic for a player with that resume — even with seven Pro Bowl appearances — to believe he’s worthy of being among the highest-paid offensive linemen in the league for years to come? It’s not.
Yet that, apparently, is what Williams hopes to be. Washington granted Williams and his representatives the right to seek a trade. In his statement, Taylor, the agent, questioned the sincerity of that action.
“Despite its irreconcilable differences, Washington was unable (or unwilling) to negotiate a trade of Williams,” Taylor wrote. “ … Williams’ representatives provided the team with trading options, but the Redskins have shown no interest in negotiating in good faith and, in fact, have given inconsistent demands on what it wants in return for a trade.”
In the Thursday interview on 106.7 The Fan’s “Grant and Danny Show,” Taylor said he had found a club that wanted Williams, and he reiterated the idea that Washington had waffled in what it wanted in return. But here’s the thing: Any trade partner knows Washington has little leverage here, given the acrimony between the player and the team. There are a limited number of teams with needs for a left tackle, whittling the number of potential trade partners to start. The upcoming draft is heavy with top-tier tackle prospects, so there are cheaper, younger models available. There’s no hope for Washington to get what Williams, in his prime, would have been worth.
Blame that on the ousted regime of Bruce Allen, the former team president, if you want. Allen could have aggressively tried to move Williams last offseason, when the relationship was clearly sour, rather than engaging his team’s star lineman in a game of chicken. That ship has sailed, and it’s worth neither time nor energy.
One sticking point to a trade, particularly once Washington granted Williams the right to try to find a partner, that was easy to presume: Williams wanted a lucrative long-term extension. He has one year and $14.5 million remaining on the five-year, $66-million contract that made him the highest-paid offensive tackle in history. An easy glitch about which to speculate: No team was willing to meet his demands.
But on 106.7 the Fan Thursday, Taylor told hosts Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier he had not sought new money from Washington, and that Williams wasn’t looking at record-setting, $19 million salaries some had reported. Rather, Taylor indicated Williams would be willing to play for a new team at about $16 million a year.
“It’s never been about the contract,” Taylor said.
Back when this seemed to be over the medical misdiagnosis and a fractured relationship with Allen, that was believable. Now, with a new regime in place, it’s just not.
Back to the difficulties of moving Williams: According to the Web site overthecap.com, only four offensive linemen in the NFL have contracts that average as much as $16 million. Would it be considered prudent football business for a team to give up a draft pick or picks for a player who hadn’t played in a year — and had averaged more than four games missed in the three seasons before that — and then shell out a record-setting deal as well? No, it wouldn’t.
Under the old Washington hierarchy, there was plenty of room to sympathize with Williams’s side, particularly given the dodgy medical issue that created frustration not just for Williams, but for other Redskins in an era when the team dealt with all manner of injuries. But now, not only is Allen out as ringleader, but Larry Hess, the head athletic trainer who had been with the team for 17 years, was also fired.
Dan Snyder remains as owner, right? No one would be surprised if there were lingering resentment there. Except in Taylor’s statement, he names only one person other than Williams: “Trent Williams will always love and respect Dan Snyder.”
So if Allen is done and Hess is gone, is there a new beef here? And if so, who started it? Ron Rivera is the new head coach who has been given extraordinary power over all football aspects of the organization. Rivera’s reputation wouldn’t indicate that he’s prone to picking unwarranted fights, and he knows his team is better with Williams than without him.
It now feels like Williams wants out of Washington regardless of who’s here. He was upset that Rivera hosted free agent tight end Greg Olsen, who played for Rivera in Carolina, before meeting with Williams? That might be true. If so, it’s petty.
Rivera is here to fundamentally change the culture. We can debate, given Snyder’s presence, whether that’s possible. But he should at least be allowed to try — with his best players and best leaders on board. Williams, as much as anyone, should understand that change was needed, and desperately. If it’s “never been about the contract,” why not jump on board?
Rivera’s presence and Allen’s absence put Washington in a different position than it has been in more than a decade. It’s possible now, when controversy arises, that the franchise is actually in the right. The default mode for so long has been, “How are the Redskins messing this up?” and no doubt there will be cases of that to come because the owner remains the same and chaos somehow seems baked into the DNA in Ashburn.
But if the choice of Rivera as both coach and football czar was meant to pivot the franchise, it’s working on at least one level. Rivera is respected perhaps more for the way he conducts himself than for his football acumen. That allows us to get to a point in this team-vs.-tackle fiasco in which it’s possible to believe that the team is acting reasonably and Trent Williams, in fact, should reassess his stance and look more reasonably at his situation.
Note: This column was updated to account for Taylor’s comments during Thursday’s radio interview.
For more by Barry Svrluga, visit washingtonpost.com/svrluga