Trent Williams

Offensive line is the only thing that can derail Patriots

Offensive line is the only thing that can derail Patriots

Antonio Brown is more buzzworthy than Isaiah Wynn, but even he might not have as a big a make-or-break effect on the New England Patriots' stroll to the Super Bowl as the redshirt freshman tackle.

The Patriots are placing Wynn, who injured his foot Sunday against the Dolphins, on injured reserve. He'll miss at least eight weeks. The most important position as it relates to protecting Tom Brady isn't just a question mark, it's and bold and italicized font. Big as hell.

It's hard to look at the Patriots right now and worry -- they're not going to, like, lose a game soon or anything -- but how the Patriots fare in the regular season is never really in question. They're going to tear it up against a bunch of inferior opponents, then play a few difficult games late in the season and finish with a bye. Tale as old as time.

But we measure success in championships here, and going into the season, the only thing that could put the Patriots' championship hopes at risk would be if Wynn, coming off a rookie season lost to injury and replacing the now-highest-paid-lineman-in-the-league Trent Brown (who signed with the Raiders), was either ineffective or hurt.

He looked like a stud in the preseason, so questions about whether he could play were quelled a bit. Then starting center David Andrews was lost for the season with blood clots and right tackle Marcus Cannon got hurt. The Pats were already down two guys on the offensive line before Wynn got hurt.

I don't understand Pro Football Focus' grades and neither do you, but through the first two weeks, Wynn is graded as the 11th-best pass-blocking left tackle. He's passed the eye test, too.

We don't know how Marshall Newhouse (the guy who played in his place) did because he was playing against the stupid Dolphins. The Pats reportedly signed another guy, Caleb Benenoch, on Tuesday. The sooner Cannon gets back, the better, but even when Wynn returns, he'll have still missed at least 24 of 26 career regular-season games since entering the league. Can a team that's so well set-up otherwise to win a Super Bowl just cross its fingers that the left tackle can stay healthy long enough to get them through a playoff run?

Teams are trading first-round picks like hotcakes these days. Granted, that's because the players getting traded are first-round picks on their rookie deals, but the point stands. Big deals are happening.

And for a team that's so clearly built to win the Super Bowl, it would be worth making a big splash to stabilize things at left tackle. Trent Williams, 31, is holding out for Washington and they're 0-2 to start the season. With an estimated $7.53 million in cap space according to Spotrac, the Patriots would probably need to create space to fit him, but the Patriots should at least look into it. They're too good across the board to just hope for the best up front.

Make no mistake, Dante Scarnecchia has his reputation for a reason. He turns offensive linemen who might burn out elsewhere into stars. But this is a thin, injury-riddled group that's being tasked with blocking for (earmuffs) a quarterback in his 40s who could naturally begin to sense pressure when it isn't there more and more.

AB's antics? They can just cut him if he gets bad enough. Tight end? They can make do. Stephen Gostkowski missing a couple of kicks? Please. The offensive line is a different story, and really the only thing that could get in the way of another Super Bowl.  

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Trent Williams trade would cost Patriots much more than pick compensation

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Trent Williams trade would cost Patriots much more than pick compensation

FOXBORO — Trent Williams is one of the best left tackles in football. He’s had injury issues. He’s played for a bad team. Still, he’s an elite talent at one of the most important positions in football. 

It stands to reason that any team inquiring about a trade for Williams would have to be ready to part with significant capital. Take a look at the cost for big-name left tackles involved in trades over the years: the Seahawks got Duane Brown and a fifth from the Texans in return for a second and a third; the Eagles nabbed Jason Peters from the Bills for a first, a fourth and a sixth. 

It’s rare that All-Pro caliber tackles become available. But when they do, they’re expensive. 

That’s why, on its face, seeing NBC Sports Washington’s JP Finlay say he’s heard the Patriots offered a first-round pick for Williams isn’t all that unfathomable. The Patriots currently have, in my view, two NFL-caliber tackles on their roster in Marcus Cannon and Isaiah Wynn, and they’ve shown a willingness to deal first-round picks in the recent past if it meant acquiring big-time talent; they picked up Brandin Cooks from the Saints for a first before the 2017 season. 

But an acquisition of Williams would require the acquiring team to consider much more than the pick compensation it’d be giving up. 

First, Williams is going to want a new contract. Williams has two years remaining on his deal and is scheduled to make $10.8 and $12.5 in base salary in 2019 and 2020. He has cap hits for both seasons that exceed $14 million. 

For a tackle of his ilk? That’s pretty inexpensive. It’d come as no surprise if he demanded a new contract from his new team that exceeded the $16.5 million in average annual value Trent Brown received from the Raiders.

Then there are the locker room dynamics to take into account that would be thrust upon the Patriots after paying a player a new deal and making him one of the richest at the facility. Stephon Gilmore signed a contract in 2017 that pays him an average of $13 million per year. 

In a vacuum, a first-round pick for a player of Williams’ caliber is fair. But what the Patriots, or any team, would have to give up beyond that to acquire him would make it difficult to pull the trigger.

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NFL Rumors: Did Patriots offer first-round pick for Trent Williams?

NFL Rumors: Did Patriots offer first-round pick for Trent Williams?

Not only were the Patriots reportedly trying to acquire Trent Williams from the Redskins; they were willing to spend — and spend big — to get him.

According to NBC Sports Washington's J.P. Finlay, New England was willing to send a first-round draft pick in 2020 to Washington, only to be told that wasn't enough to land Williams.

The seven-time Pro Bowler would have been a huge addition to New England's offensive line, especially earlier this month when Isaiah Wynn was slow to take the field and Dan Skipper was taking reps as the team's starting left tackle in practice. 

Williams is holding out in Washington and has reportedly told friends he doesn't want to play for the Redskins, but Washington has remained steadfast that it doesn't want to trade the 31-year-old. Williams is upset with the team for a missed diagnosis on his scalp.

Could these trade talks start up again, especially if Williams' holdout continues into the regular season? It's worth keeping an eye on.

UPDATE (12:10 p.m. ET): NFL Media's Ian Rapoport threw cold water on Finlay's report Thursday, suggesting the Patriots did not, in fact, offer a first-round pick for Williams.

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