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The 5 O'Clock Club: Poll Rewind - saying goodbye to Trent Williams

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

Welcome to the Poll Rewind series!

As you probably know already, each 5 o’clock club post ends with a poll question. Usually, the results are forgotten within a day or two, but no longer!

Over the course of the off-season (From now to July 2018) we will be re-visiting some (not all) of the results of polls that were published from June to December 2017.

Several of the writers on Hogs Haven — Ken, Mark, James Dorsett & Cadillactica — have agreed to help me out with the poll reviews by adding commentary so you aren’t stuck with my voice all the time.

For today, though, the comments are mine.

We go back to 22 August 2017, when the Redskins were in training camp.

The poll that day asked when Trent Williams would finish his long run as the Redskins anchor on the left side of the line.

Here’s an excerpt from the article that preceded that poll.

Williams will be 32 years old when his current contract expires at the end of the 2020 season. He’s currently the 2nd highest paid OT (a whisper behind Okung) in the NFL, and one of only three OTs in the league with an APY of $13m or more.

When 2021 arrives in 4 short years, it will bring with it a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, possibly with changes to salary cap structure, and the likelihood of Trent Williams being a 33-year-old free agent, looking for one last payday.

While it’s possible for an offensive lineman to continue to produce at this age, the wear and tear on the body is significant, and it’s unlikely that Trent will need the money. He may not be interested in playing beyond the end of his current contract. Every player eventually reaches the end; this offseason, for example, saw the abrupt retirement of 32-year-old Brandon Albert (followed by an unusual effort to return to football).

It’s also possible that the Redskins franchise may not make an effort to keep Trent in the building in 2021. The Redskins just let two high-performing, high-dollar free agents walk out the door in Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. That caused a lot of angst among the fans and raised a lot of eyebrows in the media, but a lot of people also applauded the team for its decision to replace two veteran receivers with younger, cheaper options.

Of course, Garcon and Jackson came to the Redskins as free agents; Williams, on the other hand, was drafted by the Redskins franchise. By the end of the 2020 season, he will have spent 11 seasons as the starting left tackle. There’s a good chance that Trent ends up in the Ring of Fame someday; he’ll almost certainly be named to the list of “Greatest Redskins”, and its not inconceivable that he could someday get a gold jacket and a trip to Canton. Watching him leave to play for another team would be painful for most fans.

But good teams move on.

What year will Trent Williams stop being the Redskins starting Left Tackle?

  • 2022 or later 62%
  • 2021 19%
  • 2020 14%
  • 2019 5%

The vast majority of poll respondents predicted that Trent would still be the Redskins starting left tackle in 2022 or later, which means they expected him to sign a contract extension beyond the end of his current contract, and to continue as the starter on the left side of the line after he turns 33 years old.

In fact, my implication that Trent might need to be replaced before then was dismissed by most in the comments section.

Way too early topic here (at least 3 years)...

.

Yup

There is no need to worry about TW yet. He is ONLY 29 & has many years ahead of him as a Redskin.

Ulterior motives

When I posted the article last off-season, I had a reason.

A month or so earlier, I had been consulting with James Dorsett on an article he was writing that projected the Redskins roster for a few years into the future. He was trying to show the impact of a Kirk Cousins long-term contract on the future roster construction.

We had a lively email discussion about two positions: CB & LT.

Looking forward from last off-season, it was easy to see that three players were going to collide at the CB position from a salary cap perspective: Josh Norman, Baushaud Breeland, and Quinton Dunbar. One of the three of them would have to go by 2019. The real question was: which one?

In the initial model, we had Breeland being signed to an $8m+ contract, and Dunbar leaving. We subsequently changed the model, signing Dunbar to a 2nd round RFA contract in 2018, then a mid-cost contract in 2019, while letting Breeland go in free agency. The Redskins fooled us both by not even worrying about the RFA tender - they extended Dunbar on a 3-year free agent contract earlier this month.

The second player that James and I spent a lot of digital-ink discussing was Trent Williams at Left Tackle. The model had us drafting a new LT in 2019, and cutting TW in 2020 for salary cap reasons.

In the end, two decisions were made.

First, James decided to end the model at 2018, which simplified the article and the roster implications quite a lot (we thought that there were too many variables to make the model meaningful beyond that).

Second, no mention was made in the article of replacing Trent Williams.

The reason was pretty simple. We were in agreement that discussing the possibility of TW not being the Redskins left tackle would derail all other discussion. The focus of the article would be lost, and the comments section would largely be dominated by people attacking the blasphemy of saying that TW might not play at the LT spot in burgundy & gold forever.

I later posted the 5 o’clock club article on Trent Williams to introduce the thought that a day may come when TW doesn’t line up as the starter for the Redskins on opening day.

Salary cap can be a real bitch

I have a real ‘soft spot’ for salary cap and its impact on roster construction. When you look at the way the Redskins are currently constructed, the salary cap is currently committed to four players:

The top three guys on that list are 29 or 30 years old.

If you add Cousins on a long-term deal, then the salary cap becomes top-heavy with 4 players who are around 30 years old now. It’s the kind of move that creates a window of, say, 2 years that you can keep the band together.

We’re already seeing that if we sign Cousins to a long term deal this off-season, we’ll have to let Breeland walk.

Those decisions will keep on coming year after year if we have Kirk on a high-dollar deal, unless the team clears cap room somewhere else.

“Somewhere else” means Josh Norman, Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Williams or Jordan Reed. That’s the salary cap reality, and it’s part of the reason why I recently wrote an article in which I promoted the idea of drafting a young, fast, killer defense, and moving forward with a competent (and lower priced) veteran quarterback. It’s a more sustainable way of playing winning football year in and year out, and is more cap-friendly.

Trent’s body isn’t actually made of iron (and apparently, neither is Joe Thomas)

One of the comments I got on the original article back in August was this one:

Let’s look at another Left Tackle on the “downside” of his career

Joe Thomas for Cleveland (CLEVELAND, of all places):

32 years old, drafted in 2007, hasn’t missed a game. This is significant because it means that Trent and Joe were the same age coming into the NFL, so it’s a fairly close comparison.

Trent has served some suspensions in his career. Which means that while he has played the same number of years as Joe when he was Trent’s age, Joe had played in more games than Trent, and is still playing at an elite level (he and Trent are the best two tackles in the league, with Tyron Smith coming in a close third).

OL can continue playing at an elite level at higher ages – as counterintuitive as that may seem, given the beatings their bodies take game in and game out. Trent has changed his diet and offseason routine to keep his body performing at a high level. We’ll see how that’s working come the regular season.

We’ll more than likely extend him before his contract expires, possibly even before the CBA is up. I expect Trent to play in the B&G at least as many years as Joe Thomas does, if not longer. Trent’s going to retire a Redskin.

Joe Thomas’ ‘iron man’ streak, mentioned in this comment, came to an end in late October just after he’d played his 10,000th consecutive snap. He suffered a torn tricep.

Now, Joe Thomas is apparently considering retirement:

“Had a lot of time to think and spend some time with the family, but not ready definitively to make a decision one way or the other just yet. Really for me, my decision is just going to come down to do I feel like I’m healthy enough to survive another season?” It’s a valid concern for a 32-year-old who played every down possible until the middle of his 11th season.

Of course, every Redskins fan knows about Trent Williams’ health issues in the 2017 season. He played 10 games this season, and none after Week 14, in a season where he was hobbled by a knee injury. In late December, TW had the first major surgery of his life (I’ve seen media reports that say he’s scared of surgery), and he sent out an instagram photo with the hashtag: #sliverbackunderconstruction.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BdSli8zFGwb/?taken-by=trentwilliams71

A look around the league

I took a look at the 21 highest paid tackles in the league (by APY) just to get a feeling for the age range. Here’s what I found:

28 or younger

  • Greg Robinson (25)
  • Terron Armstead (26)
  • David Bakhtiari (26)
  • Charles Leno Jr. (26)
  • Tyron Smith (27)
  • Eric Fisher (27)
  • Cordy Glenn (28)
  • Matt Kalil (28)
  • Kelvin Beachum (28)

29

  • Russell Okung (29)
  • Trent Williams (29)
  • Riley Reiff (29)
  • Anthony Castonzo (29)
  • Nate Solder (29)
  • Alejandro Villanueva (29)

30

None

31

None

32

  • Duane Brown

33 or older

  • Joe Thomas (33)
  • Joe Staley (33)
  • Donald Penn (34)
  • Jason Peters (35)
  • Andrew Whitworth (36)

This unscientific survey suggests to me that most NFL Left Tackles in the league don’t get a large contract after age 30, but that typically one guy per year breaks through that age-30 barrier. Whitworth, Peters, Penn, Staley, Thomas, Brown... they’re the guys that got past that barrier.

Maybe that means that Trent will be the 29-years old tackle who makes it through.

In fact, it seems likely.

There is currently a logjam of 6 top-paid tackles in the league who are 29 years old (and none who are 30 or 31). Chances are that only one or two of them will still be there by the end of the 2019 season. I’m sure we all hope that Trent Williams will be the last man standing in that group.

Poll

When should the Redskins front office aim to draft Trent’s replacement?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    2018
    (41 votes)
  • 40%
    2019
    (166 votes)
  • 33%
    2020
    (138 votes)
  • 16%
    2021 or later
    (67 votes)
412 votes total Vote Now