Chiefs trade idea: Damien Williams to the Pittsburgh Steelers

MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 02: Damien Williams #26 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the fourth quarter in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 02: Damien Williams #26 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the fourth quarter in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) /

For the first of our trade idea posts, we explore the thought of trading Damien Williams.

Given that we’re in the doldrums of the NFL offseason in the midst of a global pandemic in which the whole world feels heavy with news, we hope you’ll cut us a bit of slack if we entertain ourselves this week with a series of trade ideas for the Kansas City Chiefs. We’ll be the first to admit that we’re not close to being qualified enough to work for a team and the only experience we have trading players is likely on whatever iteration of Madden we played last (which for me would be like Madden ’12).

Still, that doesn’t deter us from having fun playing armchair GM. It’s interesting to consider the potential moves that general manager Brett Veach could make and it’s why fans are so glued to the television during the draft or their Twitter feeds during free agency’s frenzied opening week. To extend the fun a bit this week, we thought we’d fill this dry period with some trade ideas all week long.

Today we begin with the crowded room known as the running backs room at Arrowhead and try to come up with a workable solution. And it begins by sending Damien Williams to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Chiefs Kingdom certainly owes more than just a tip of the proverbial cap to Williams for his valiant efforts down the stretch for each of the last two seasons. If not for a Dee Ford offsides call, we could be talking about two Super Bowl appearances or even wins or the Chiefs in 2018 and 2019 and Williams would be remembered as a major catalyst for each of those. As it is, most of us would agree that he deserved the Super Bowl MVP award over Patrick Mahomes (no slight intended to the game’s greatest player).

As a low-risk signing out of free agency from the Miami Dolphins, Brett Veach deserves a helluva lot of credit for having the vision to sign Williams in the first place. In Miami, Williams never once even averaged 4 yards/carry in four full seasons. With the Chiefs, however, he became a devastating two-way threat who put up his best performances when it counted the most (10 touchdowns in 5 playoff games for the Chiefs).

Looking ahead, however, the writing is already on the wall for Williams—or really anyone else for that matter—when it comes to the future of the position. The Chiefs used their only first-round pick since 2017 on a running back of all positions because they believed so much in the talent and fit that Clyde Edwards-Helaire brings to the offense. The Chiefs will say there’s a competition at every position, but if Edwards-Helaire isn’t the bell cow here for the next four seasons or more, then something has gone horribly wrong.

A glance around the roster at running back shows that there’s plenty more talent beyond Edwards-Helaire and Williams as well:

  • Darrel Williams is an exciting young back who suffered a season-ending injury in 2019. The former undrafted free agent profiles on paper as a goal line back, but his hands make him far more versatile than what teams might expect.
  • Darwin Thompson is a power-packed back taken late in the 2018 draft who showcased plenty of preseason potential. Blocking concerns kept him from earning more reps as the season wore on.
  • DeAndre Washington was added this offseason from the Las Vegas Raiders. The former college teammate of Patrick Mahomes profiles similarly to Damien Williams as a third down back with good hands, giving the Chiefs real competition for that role.
  • Elijah McGuire is also around as a former practice squad player with some history with the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns as well. The Chiefs are intrigued enough with McGuire’s talents and special teams work to keep him around from last year’s P.S. through this year’s roster.

While McGuire is a safe bet as the odd man out here, the rest have very good reasons to believe he can make the final active roster for the Chiefs. That means someone is going to be sorely disappointed—that is, unless the Chiefs make some room by making a trade in advance.

Sure, Veach could trade a new face or a player who has proven far less than Damien Williams, but that would also affect the potential return. Instead of flipping a prospect for a conditional seventh round pick or some such, it makes sense to give Williams a real chance to shine as a lead back once again—or potentially so—and enjoy a bit larger return in the process.

What seems to make sense for all parties involved is to send Williams to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for a fifth round pick (with maybe the chance to earn a 4th instead if certain statistical marks are met or if he makes a Pro Bowl).

For some comparison, in 2019, the Chicago Bears sent a 6th round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for Jordan Howard, and in 2020, the Arizona Cardinals flipped a 5th round pick to the Miami Dolphins for Kenyan Drake. (We’d include Duke Johnson for a 3rd round pick from the Houston Texans, but no one can use Bill O’Brien‘s trade moves as a realistic measuring stick.) This means a 4th or 5th round pick sounds about right for Williams.

As for the fit, the Steelers clearly believe they are ready to compete with Ben Roethlisberger in the twilight of his career. If the team can’t get over the hump here with Big Ben returning from a season away due to injury then they will likely hit the rebuild button, at least offensively, seeing as how running back James Conner and wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster are both in contract seasons.

Speaking of Conner, he’s penciled in as the lead back for the Steelers. Yet how good can the team really feel about a back who led them in 2019 with 464 rushing yards and has an impossible time staying healthy? Conner has never once eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark in his career and he missed six games last year with knee and shoulder injuries.

It’s also not that rosy behind Conner. Benny Snell was drafted last year in the fourth round but turned in a lackluster 3.9 yards/carry in relief of Conner. Jaylen Samuels was even worse with a pitiful 2.7 yards/carry average (and he profiles best as a scatback anyway). It didn’t help that Big Ben was gone and teams could stack the box, but the Steelers run game hasn’t been as electric without Le’Veon Bell (the same could be said of Bell without the Steelers).

Instead of employing one-dimensional backs like those currently behind Conner or going into the season with no real insurance in case of another injury, the Steelers could flip a future Day 3 draft asset to secure the backfield with a proven performer under the brightest lights. Williams would provide very real competition for Conner from day one and give the Steelers a player who can be dangerous as a runner or receiver—one with a real nose for the end zone.

The Steelers did invest a day 3 pick this year on Maryland’s Anthony McFarland and he’ll get every chance to shine in the preseason as well, but the team would do well to bring in some veteran insurance because their last two attempts to draft some real help have yet to materialize into impact production. A mid-round choice isn’t much to give up to know your roster is set.

So that’s the first deal of our Trade Idea Week: Damien Williams to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a 5th round pick (which becomes a 4th if he makes the Pro Bowl). Do you like it? Hate it? Sound off with your own thoughts and trade ideas in the comments below.