The Trent Williams saga will go down as one of the saddest in Redskins history.
A club forced to trade in nostalgia, to mask present woes by venerating long-gone glory days, in the most charitable reading of an awful situation, has so alienated one of its greatest players that he wants nothing to do with it.
And so Williams, a seven-time Pro Bowler, sits on the NFL’s non-football injury list as of Nov. 7. He cannot play for the Redskins against the New York Jets at FedEx Field on Sunday. He cannot play for them for the rest of this season. He will not play for them again if we take him at his word.
Williams has been open about that with multiple members of the Redskins media corps. Upset about what he believes was a multi-year misdiagnosis by Redskins doctors of what turned out to be a cancerous growth on his head, Williams refused to report to the team for minicamp, for training camp, for the season.
Angered by what he believed were intentional leaks by the team to make him look bad, Williams made it clear in multiple interviews last week that he had no use for the front office. The Redskins were on a bye, but used that rest period to essentially end Williams’ time with the only NFL team he’s ever played for. This weekend the stark reality of that will smack fans in the face. Williams hasn’t been on the field all season, but he’s really not coming back.
He will not earn a dime of his $10.85 million base salary this season and it’s still not clear if the NFL will rule that his current contract advances so that he’s a free agent after next season or tolls until 2021.
Either way, Williams and the Redskins need a fresh start. It should never have gotten this far, of course.
Williams, who turns 32 next July, thinks he has five or six more good years left in his career. Even if that’s ambitious, those remaining days should happen here in Washington, not in some other city via an offseason trade.
The Redskins don’t really have a choice. They’ve again waited until circumstances left them with no good options. They didn’t want to extend Williams’ contract last spring two years out from free agency, but they weren’t willing to move him for assets in what is clearly a rebuilding scenario.
They have to pick one path or the other. Spending the next eight months fighting Williams and the NFL Players Association over money and contract terms is a stubborn waste of time. It also sends a terrible message about how they treat their best players. What top free agent will want to play here when a franchise icon is treated this way?
The Redskins might believe they have some valid points in their favor. Among them: Williams wasn’t misdiagnosed, that he is just angry about his contract situation, that his body is breaking down with recent knee and thumb surgeries. And that he at times can be unreliable with two marijuana suspensions during his career and repeated failed tests that have him on the brink of a long suspension under the NFL’s antiquated drug policy.
Even if we grant them all of that, does it matter?
Redskins fans have been outnumbered multiple times at FedEx Field already this season. On Sunday, it will be embarrassing, but not surprising, if the lowly Jets (2-7) do the same. They only play in Washington every eight years. New York stinks, but that never stops Giants fans from filling the lower bowl and they play here every year.
Meanwhile, according to a story in the Washington Times on Thursday, Williams will be far away in Iowa attending a boxing match for a fighter he co-manages. He decided long ago he didn’t want to be a part of this anymore. Williams put his body on the line for a decade and believes the Redskins didn’t appreciate it, took him for granted, betrayed his trust.
Arguing with him might soothe their feelings, might provide some small public relations win, prove some point or save some money, but at what cost? It won’t make them any better on the field in 2020 or beyond. It’s time, for once, to make that the priority.
A war of attrition with one of their all-time greats just turns a sad situation into a pathetic one where nobody wins.
MORE REDSKINS NEWS:
- Guice's return: 3 things to look for
- Top pick race: These results would help
- Next step: Dwayne wants more authority