Let’s be clear from the outset to avoid running with disinformation: Trent Williams has a knee injury that will keep him out for a week. However, the San Francisco 49ers don’t sound too concerned about his long-term availability for the regular season.
This is important to note, because any questions we’re asking about K.C. Chiefs and a potentially dodged bullet aren’t founded in any real long-term concerns—at least not yet. However, we still feel that it’s fair to ask them at this stage given the size of his contract, the very public pursuit of him in free agency by the Chiefs, and his age at the very beginning of a long-term extension.
In case we’ve jumped into the deep end here without any context, let’s catch everyone up.
Earlier this spring, the K.C. Chiefs raced out of the gate with a grandiose plan for the offensive line. After releasing Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz to free up cap space and remove any lingering injury clouds and concerns, the team had its eyes set on the biggest fish in the free agent pond—at least among all linemen—in Joe Thuney and Trent Williams.
Did the Chiefs dodge a bullet by not signing Trent Williams?
When the dust settled on the early “tampering” period, the Chiefs had caught one fish but had lost out on the other in a very public pursuit that ended up with Williams choosing to stay at home in the Bay Area. The 49ers stepped up to pay Williams a six-year deal worth up to $138 million and $55 million of it in guaranteed money, a deal the Chiefs could not or would not match. Either way, Williams’ decision to stay home altered the Chiefs plans.
These days, Orlando Brown is locked in place as the Chiefs left tackle and no one should complain about the way the line came together for K.C. this offseason. A mix of veteran studs and exciting rookies have remade the entire front line and every position has an experienced backup (or two) which should give them an advantage heading into a 17-game season and postseason run.
Given the injury news for Williams, it’s fair to ask if the Chiefs ended up dodging a bullet here? No one wants to make a mountain out of a molehill, and this knee injury is likely exactly what’s being described—a short-term injury in the preseason that won’t affect his ability to play any regular season games. The Niners aren’t concerned and no one else should be either.
At the same time, it’s notable that Williams is a 33-year-old lineman who missed six games in 2017 due to a knee injury. He’s on the front end of a six-year deal that will pay him until he’s nearly 40. His level of play is truly elite, which is why the Niners went so high and why the Chiefs made him a priority. However, the Chiefs were already clearing the roster of players who were just turning 30 and dealing with injury concerns in Fisher and Schwartz. Would Williams have been more of the same, albeit one who is an All-Pro performer?
it’s impossible for anyone to tell if Trent Williams’ best days are behind him or whether he will continue to be the sort of elite performer that the Niners are paying him to be. A left tackle who can shut down the league’s best pass rushers is worth paying an exorbitant cost, which is why smart franchises were all-in on him. However, it will be interesting to see if the Chiefs ended up dodging a bullet in the end by not being able to sign him away from San Fran. Only time will tell.