Arguably the biggest move that any team in the AFC North made this offseason was the Cincinnati Bengals signing Orlando Brown Jr. to become their new left tackle. A Pro Bowler four years running—including some overlap at right tackle—he has spent most of his career blocking for Lamar Jackson and then Patrick Mahomes.
Now he’ll be protecting Joe Burrow’s blindside. Which means former first-round draft pick Jonah Williams will not. The 42-game starter asked to be traded shortly after the news came out that the Bengals were signing Brown.
According to Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Williams “was blindsided” by the news. She writes that the team did not communicate with him at all about their plans to pursue a replacement for him, nor that they were entertaining the possibility of moving him to right tackle.
New on the Jonah Williams trade request:
The #Bengals didn’t communicate with Jonah before they were planning to sign Orlando Brown. He was blindsided. The team didn’t tell him ahead of time they were thinking of moving him to RT, a source close to the situation tells me
— Kelsey Conway (@KelseyLConway) March 29, 2023
There are no indications that the team intends to entertain Williams’ trade request. The Bengals hope to have him compete to start at right tackle, presumably with La’el Collins, whom they signed last year to start. Collins is currently recovering from a serious injury.
After spending his rookie season in 2019 on the Reserve/Injured List, Williams has logged 2,779 snaps on offense over the past three seasons. He has played every snap of every game in the past two years except for the 2021 season finale when starters were resting.
But nobody has accused him of being a four-time Pro Bowler, or playing anything like it. In spite of his pedigree as a former 11th-overall pick out of Alabama, Williams has never distinguished himself as anything more than an average starter.
The Bengals did make the decision to pick up his fifth-year option, which is what he is scheduled to play under for the 2023 season, with a base value of $12,604,000. That salary is fully guaranteed (and even under the old rules would have become fully guaranteed on the first day of the new league year).
That would complicate any potential trade talks, though $12,604,000 is not an exorbitant price to pay for a quality left tackle. It remains to be seen if anybody in the league actually views Williams as such, and the odds are teams would like to take a stab at the draft first.
Should it reach a point where Cincinnati does want to deal him, they may have to be willing to eat a portion of his salary to make it more palatable for the acquiring team. Right now, his salary would rank 16th among left tackles. And is he in the top half of left tackles around the league? That’s also a top-10 salary at right tackle. Could he be a top-10 right tackle?