It looks like the San Francisco 49ers were trying hard to get a new deal done with their prized free agent.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports that the Niners had talks with veteran left tackle Trent Williams about a new contract last week.
#49ers and Pro Bowl LT Trent Williams had extensive discussions last week on a contract extension, per sources. Doing something before Week 17 would have helped SF's salary cap. It didn't happen, and an elite tackle could hit free agency, but SF is clearly prioritizing Williams— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) January 7, 2021
The 32-year-old performed exceptionally well during his first season with the team. Williams was acquired from the Washington Football Team during a trade that commenced during the 2020 NFL Draft when general manager John Lynch got word that Joe Staley was retiring.
Pro Football Focus gave Williams a 91.9 grade, tops of any tackle in the league and second among all offensive lineman. He was also named to the Pro Bowl for the eighth time in his career.
Williams — who cannot be franchise tagged this offseason — touched on his free agency plans during the season-ending media availability.
“San Francisco would be the lead candidate, so whether it’s now or whether it is in free agency, a team has to convince me it’s better there than it will be here,” Williams said. “Even if it does make it to free agency, it won’t be because I’m trying to go somewhere else. It may simply (be) just because I may want to see my value.”
The 49ers’ front office will have to get creative with the league facing a cap crunch due to revenue loss during the pandemic. Elite offensive tackles are among the highest-paid players in the game, and Williams has said he willing to work with the Niners to figure out how to structure the deal to help minimize the cap hit.
Williams’ salary was $12.5 million this past season, and he will be in line for a hefty raise. The three highest-paid left tackles in the league have an average salary of $20.6 million. David Bakhtiari of the Green Bay Packers makes the most out of any left tackle at $23 million, Laremy Tunsil of the Miami Dolphins is being paid $22 million, while Garrett Boles of the Denver Broncos comes in at $17 million.
San Francisco’s cap wizard Paarag Marathe could defer some of the guaranteed portion to bring Williams’ cap hit down for next season and have it increase during the back-half of the deal once league revenue begins to get back to normal.
The 49ers will also have to save enough to pay Fred Warner, one of the game’s best linebackers.
It’s going to be an intriguing offseason in the Bay Area, with 27 players up for unrestricted free agency. But, Williams is undoubtedly the top priority.