49ers

49ers free agency grade: Williams deal re-opens Super Bowl window

49ers

It's not hyperbole to suggest that the 49ers' entire offseason and their 2021 fortunes hinged on one move -- re-signing Trent Williams.

Mission accomplished.

The 49ers couldn't let the best left tackle in the NFL get away in free agency. It would have left them scrambling to fill one of the most critical positions on the roster either through a backup free-agency plan or with the No. 12 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Williams, 32, proved his value last season when he gave up just four sacks and allowed pressure on just 3.6 percent of dropbacks. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the No. 1 tackle in football and he also had the No. 1 run-blocking grade as a tackle. Williams was named to his eighth Pro Bowl. He should have been an All-Pro but was, for an unknown reason, snubbed from the list.

He was, by the very definition, elite.

So, the 49ers paid him as such late Tuesday night/Wednesday morning when they agreed to a record-breaking six-year, $138.06 million contract with $55.1 million guaranteed. That comes out to an annual average of $23.01 million, which tops Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari’s $23 million yearly average. Bakhtiari signed his contract in November.

That's a massive chunk of change for a player who would have left an enormous hole in the 49ers' offensive line if he left.

Make no mistake, Williams is worth every penny.

 

Had the 49ers let Williams leave -- the Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs reportedly were in the mix -- their offensive line, which took a step back as a unit in 2020, likely would have had to place one of the most vital positions on the football field in the hands of a rookie who they would draft at No. 12 overall.

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With Williams locked up, the 49ers have ensured their offensive line will take a step forward in 2021. They also reportedly agreed to sign center Alex Mack, which would give the unit a much-needed boost in the interior.

Given Jimmy Garoppolo's injury history, putting an elite brick wall on his blindside was Priority No. 1 for the 49ers this offseason. There wasn't a close No. 2.

With Garoppolo's blindside secured and the league's best tackle set to finish his prime in Santa Clara, the 49ers now have the freedom to spend the rest of free agency and the draft without a massive need hanging over their head.

After an injury-riddled 2020 season, the 49ers have plans to get back to Super Bowl contention in 2021. They couldn't do that if Williams changed zip codes this offseason. They made sure they got their man no matter the cost.

With Williams back and the offensive line getting an upgrade, the 49ers' Super Bowl window, which looked to be creaking shut, swings wide open once again.

Grade: A-plus

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