Shortly after releasing Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz to clear $18 million in salary cap space early Thursday, outside momentum is starting to build for the Kansas City Chiefs to make a splash move to address the new gaping holes at left and right tackle.
Now sitting closer to $4 million over their $188.4 cap ceiling for 2021, the AFC champions still have work to do before the new league year opens on March 17. However, general manager Brett Veach and the Chiefs front office can easily accumulate more cap space — potentially as much as $60 million worth — through any number of contract restructures with key players such as Tyrann Mathieu, Tyreek Hill, Chris Jones and Frank Clark.
While it’s not likely that Kansas City flips the offseason script entirely by clearing tens of millions to chase big-money free agents in the coming weeks, the opportunity is there if need be. And even though a number of the most coveted players in this year’s unusually stacked free agent class have already been taken off the market, the biggest possible prize for a team like the Chiefs still remains in the form of San Francisco 49ers left tackle Trent Williams.
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Williams Expected to Land Massive Payday This Offseason
First things first: Williams is going to get paid this offseason.
Suggesting the former No. 4 overall pick and eight-time Pro Bowler was a real possibility for the Chiefs even a week ago would have drawn crazy looks. However, with a few dominoes having fallen on Thursday, Kansas City’s plans for its offensive line have come into focus ever so slightly. The takeaway? The unit will look very different in 2021.
Despite turning 33 years old this July, Williams is still performing at a very high level, though questions remain about just how long his 6-foot-5, 320-pound frame can hold up. Even so, Williams is a consensus top-five unrestricted free agent this year with an expected market value approaching $18-20 million annually, a sizeable raise from his already significant $12.5 million salary in 2020.
Even with a more saturated free agent market than years past due to the $15 million drop in team salary caps for 2021, the gap between Williams and the next closest alternatives is wide enough to believe that the future Hall of Fame candidate could quickly price himself out of the Chiefs’ budget.
Not only that, but Williams hinted earlier this week on The Cris Collinsworth Podcast featuring Richard Sherman that a return to the Bay Area may already be imminent. When his soon-to-be former teammate Sherman predicted that Williams would be making 49ers fans happy for “another five or six years,” Williams responded by saying, “It’s not a bad take. Y’all barking up the right tree.”
Pro Football Focus is also among the believers that Williams will re-up in San Fran on a projected four-year, $80 million deal with $62.5 guaranteed.
‘Williams to K.C.’ Movement Gains Steam Nonetheless
Even with all of those factors in mind, the Chiefs losing three of its five 2020 starters on the offensive line in the span of eight hours on Thursday still has some believing Kansas City could make a run at the 49ers veteran left tackle.
Williams now headlines a list of veteran free agents suggested by 41 Action News’ Nick Jacobs as a “top-dollar” option for the Chiefs’ consideration. USA Today’s Chiefs Wire and Sports Illustrated have also named Williams as a player Kansas City could splurge on.
Fans were quickly putting the hypothetical puzzle pieces together on Twitter on Thursday morning as well.
Although almost anything is possible with today’s salary cap manipulation tactics, the idea of Williams in a Chiefs uniform remains a pipe dream. If Kansas City is truly looking to acquire an established Pro Bowl talent to replace Fisher on Mahomes’ blindside, a trade for Baltimore Ravens rising star Orlando Brown Jr. might make more sense.
According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo on Thursday, there are currently six clubs showing interest in dealing for the two-time Pro Bowler. It’s unknown if the Chiefs are among that group, but they have at least been linked to Brown in recent weeks.
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Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!