Trent Williams Resets the Market for Left Tackles

Last year the Cowboys extended Tyron Smith to a contract worth $12.2 million a season that was the new standard bearer for the position. However, when looked at much closer, it really wasnt the market mover many thought as the Cowboys negotiated a contract that would trail Joe Thomas of the Browns in every key metric. While Washington pushed the bar much further with Trent Williams on his $66 million contract, there are still many similarities to the Thomas deal. That said we can expect this contract to become a new standard in negotiating a long term deal at the position. 

Here are the cash flows of the contract Williams signed compared to Thomas and Smith.

Year 1$20,250,000$20,700,000$20,000,000
Year 2$31,750,000$30,900,000$30,000,000
Year 3$42,000,000$42,000,000$40,000,000
Year 4$53,250,000$51,000,000$50,000,000
Year 5$66,000,000$60,500,000$60,000,000

Williams received a better two year cash flow than Thomas and Smith, but ends up at the same three year value as Thomas. So in that respect the market is still capped off at $42 million over three. Where Williams pulls ahead is in those backend seasons. This effectively borrows from the recent trends in contracts such as those signed by Bobby Wagner and Lavonte David where backend contract money is really being used to pump up the overall contract value. By the time those seasons kick in most of the dead money kicks out, making it easier to release the players.

Where Williams makes out greatly, however, is the guarantee structure. Washington used $18.5 million in prorated money to help fund the $41.25 million guarantee. The Browns used $6 million with Thomas and the Cowboys initially used $10 million on Smith. Williams $30 million guaranteed on signing is not just more than what the other two received, but on a yearly basis massive amounts higher. The other two players had to essentially give up their entire careers to receive those guarantees.

If they play out their contracts they will earn an extra $20 and $24 million respectively over those added two years. Williams would be a free agent and potentially earning that much in one. It is a big concession that should reset the ways teams do business with left tackles. The LT position is considered one that can play for a long time so a five year deal leaves a good possibility for a second big contract down the line. Teams using their 7 year strategy were basically locking up players for a career. This should be a new starting point for tackles now moving forward.

Washington created a little over $3.5 million in cap room with the new deal for 2015 but will have a relatively steady flow of charges due to the heavy amounts of bonus money in the contract. If Williams plays at a Pro Bowl level they won’t worry about that bonus money, but if he fails to deliver thats the big danger for the team with this contract structure.