Cincinnati seized the opportunity to upgrade at left tackle this week. Unfortunately for Jonah Williams, that upgrade means his job is in jeopardy.
Williams has reacted in kind, requesting a trade through his agent, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday.
The offensive lineman is seeking a new start somewhere else after the Bengals went fishing for the top left tackle on the open market in Orlando Brown and were able to land him with a deal that included the largest signing bonus ($31 million) ever given to an offensive lineman. Left tackle wasn't necessarily a position of priority, but signing Brown provided the Bengals with an upgrade and multi-year security ahead of an anticipated extension for Joe Burrow.
Williams is entering the fifth and final year of his rookie contract, which is scheduled to pay him a guaranteed base salary of $12.6 million. Cincinnati can clear the entirety of that number from its cap by trading him, but likely won't recoup the first-round pick the Bengals spent on him in 2019.
A Day 2 pick could get a deal done if the Bengals are interested in moving on from Williams. Cincinnati has dedicated considerable resources to its offensive line in the last year, signing La'el Collins, Ted Karras and Alex Cappa in 2022 alone (and drafting starting left guard Cordell Volson), and Williams might not be long for the Bengals anyway -- unless he accepts a move to the right side of the line. If that were to happen, he'd replace Collins, who is coming off a season-ending knee injury that could delay his return in 2023. Keeping Williams around might be wise for depth -- something the Bengals have struggled with mightily in the last two years.
And after the first wave of free agency came and went, Williams will quickly find himself as the most coveted tackle available. It will likely cost a suitor assets and a new contract for him, though, adding a couple of hurdles to the matter.
It's not that Williams hasn't been good -- he just hasn't been near the elite level required to draw top assets from trade partners. What he has been recently, however, is consistently available, starting in 42 of a possible 50 games over the last three seasons after missing his entire rookie campaign due to injury.
From a club perspective, Williams' missed season proved to be a blessing in disguise because it helped the Bengals land Burrow. As it stands now, though, Williams may not be around to see the quarterback sign his next contract in Cincinnati.