After the Cincinnati Bengals signed Orlando Brown Jr. to a four-year contract, left tackle and former first-round pick Jonah Williams requested a trade from the organization (per Ian Rapoport). Williams is on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract, thus having a fully guaranteed $12,604,000 salary for the upcoming season.
The Bengals hope to move Williams to right tackle and have him compete with La’el Collins, a potential cap casualty and constant injury risk, and are under no obligation to trade him. However, the two sides are clearly heading in different directions. It would be nice for the team to free up that cap space if they can find a sufficient replacement (and no, that is not Cody Ford).
Williams is the top offensive tackle on the market at 25 years old and is expected to receive interest in a trade market. A third-round draft pick would likely be enough to get a deal done. Any trading partner would require an opening at left tackle (Williams wants to stay at his position and, more importantly, get paid left tackle money next year), sufficient cap space, and, ideally, a zone running scheme where he fits best. Here are the three destinations that make sense for both parties if the Bengals decide to part ways with Williams.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots current starting tackles are Trent Brown and Riley Reiff, who are 30 and 34 years old. Brown is still a cut candidate, and Reiff was a weak link on one of the worst offensive lines in football last year. Calvin Anderson was just signed to a two-year deal as a swing tackle and is not an ideal starting option. Williams would immediately add youth to the offensive line room while still having the experience that Belichick desires.
As their roster stands, offensive tackle is a must-draft position in the first round. Bill Belichick does not want to corner his team into a draft pick, especially considering their other glaring needs, and should recognize the drop-off in the tackle class after the first tier. Tackle would still be a major draft need for New England if they trade for Williams, but they would not be as desperate. Due to their cap flexibility and tackle situation, this match makes perfect sense.
Ryan Poles and the Chicago Bears have had no trouble spending big money this off-season. The team still has over $40 million in cap space and a question mark at offensive tackle. 2022 fifth-round pick Braxton Jones was solid at left tackle last year. Unfortunately for Bears fans, he is the only tackle on the roster who has shown signs of starting-caliber play on the outside. He is also not proven enough to prevent Chicago from grabbing a more proven option for Justin Fields’ blindside and then trying Jones out at right tackle.
Williams would fit well in Luke Getsy’s outside zone offense. The Bears could still opt to draft a starting tackle instead, but they missed out on all the marquee names in free agency. Williams comes with flaws, but as a starting-caliber player on a one-year deal, there are worse options.
The Titans just signed Andre Dillard to a three-year, $29 million deal which could end up being a great value signing. However, that is not enough of a commitment to prevent the team from taking on any competition at tackle. Nicholas Petit-Frere showed promise as a rookie but was not good enough to enter training camp with a guaranteed starting spot.
Dillard has struggled with injuries and has never been a consistent starter. He could move inside to guard if necessary and still have a reasonable contract. The Titans need bodies along the offensive line wherever they can find them. A Jonah Williams trade would give them another intriguing player to add to the mix.