We knew Trent Williams would be a good player. Coming into last year, Williams had been in the NFL for nine seasons and made the Pro Bowl in seven of them. His fit in Kyle Shanahan’s offense was obvious, so the transition to San Francisco figured to be a seamless one.
Boy, was it ever. Williams played 87% of the snaps, which was the highest since 2015. It would have been higher had it not been for COVID. Despite sitting out 2019, Williams hit the ground running as he sent a defender flying during Week 1 against the Cardinals:
It’s not often an offensive lineman has highlights, but Williams seemed to provide a highlight-worthy block every week.
He ran into some hiccups against Philadelphia and Miami, where a few miscommunications led to the quarterback getting hit. Nevertheless, Williams’ dominance cannot be understated last season.
We should have known he was the real deal when Williams made the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year look like a high school edge rusher during training camp.
Can he stay healthy again? Can Williams...improve? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then the 49ers' offense will be special. Each time we spoke to Williams during his media availability, he was quick to tell us that he was still rusty, despite going full games without missing blocks. That’s how elite players talk.
Age: 32 (turns 33 on July 19)
Weight: 318 pounds
Experience: Ten accrued seasons
Williams signed a six-year, $138 million contract this past offseason. His cap number for 2021 is only $8 million, but that number jumps to $14 million in 2022 and $26 million in ‘23 and ‘24.
He’s the highest-paid offensive tackle in NFL history, but Williams is a unicorn, making it tough to get mad at his contract.
It’s essentially a three-year contract, as Williams doesn’t have any guaranteed money in his deal after 2024.
What to expect in 2021
A year removed from being diagnosed with Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans, a soft-tissue sarcoma that develops in the deep layers of skin. A year off from football served Williams well, and now he’s on one of the most talented rosters in the NFL.
Williams is being paid like one of the top players in the NFL, which means the 49ers need him to produce like one. So, the expectation is that he plays every game, allows a minimal number of sacks, and ensures the 49ers running game is one of the best in the NFL.
Sharing knowledge and working with the young linemen on the roster will be critical for Williams. That’s where being a veteran and mentor comes into play. Last year, Williams went out of his way to mention how much Laken Tomlinson helped him as a player.
This time around, there’s Aaron Banks, Jaylon Moore, and a few other young players who can stand to learn a thing or six from Williams. The 49ers can do a better job of developing young offensive linemen. That’s not on Williams, but serving as a coach on the field during practice could go a long way.
The expectation for Williams in 2021 is that he plays every game at an All-Pro level. There aren’t many players entering the season with this mindset, which tells you how special of a player Williams is for the 49ers.