The 49ers have a rare, yet fortunate ability to replace an unparalleled top-tier talent with another of equal caliber. On Saturday, longtime beloved left tackle Joe Staley announced his retirement from the NFL after 13 illustrious seasons in San Francisco. That same day, the 49ers managed to strike a deal with the Washington Redskins in exchange for seven-time Pro Bowl tackle, Trent Williams.
Williams was drafted by Washington fourth-overall in the 2010 NFL Draft under the tutelage of then-offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan. The two would go on to spend the first four seasons of Williams' career together as he was groomed into one of the top tackles in the NFL. With an opportunity to reunite with his former offensive coordinator, San Francisco was positioned at the top of his list of hopeful landing spots in trade discussions.
"This was a preferred destination of mine just because of the familiarity I had with Kyle and the offense, and obviously they have an ascending team," Williams said. "The reason I was drafted to Washington was the way this offense marries up with my skill set. And I think it's still the same. It's a hand in glove fit. I know this offense like the back of my hand."
Despite starting 119 of the 120 career games he's appeared in, Williams hasn't played a full 16-game season since 2013. Williams is coming off of a 2019 campaign that was put on hiatus after missing the entire season due to a dispute with Washington's front office. However, Williams has still been regarded as one of the premier left tackles in the league, giving up just one sack in his last two active seasons. The veteran left tackle, along with the 49ers, are hopeful his time off from football works in his favor and plays a positive role in his durability going forward.
"I feel like I'm 25 again," he added. "It's my first year off of football since the second grade. It's like 25 years of straight football every August. My body has had a chance to rest, it's had a chance to heal. I don't know if I've ever been in a position where I didn't really feel an ache or a pain going through offseason training. I feel rejuvenated to say the least."
San Francisco announced they have acquired seven-time Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams from the Washington Redskins. Check out a few of his best images with the Redskins.
Added Shanahan: "I personally only think it would help him. I think his body is going to be fresher. Trent's as impressive of an athlete as we'll ever be around. I know he's prepared and he's a football player. Everyone loves making a great living and everything like this, but Trent loves football. He's very similar to Joe Staley in that way and that's why we're excited to get him."
Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the NFL's offseason has undergone significant modifications. In-person installations and workouts have turned into virtual meetings, and the certainties of standard NFL practices remain on hold. While many players are finding their own creative ways to replicate a typical NFL offseason workout, Williams has the benefit of staying ahead of the curve with a gym he co-owns with Redskins running back Adrian Peterson.
But once the league returns to its regularly scheduled programming, Williams believes his familiarity with Shanahan, in conjunction with his "rejuvenated" body, will make his debut in San Francisco a seamless transition.
"Under regular circumstances, I think it would be extremely challenging," Williams said. "I think it would be next to impossible to be as effective as you want to be without having a proper offseason. But being this case, I literally can go line up in their huddle and go run a play today, that's how familiar I am with their offense. I think the learning curve is a lot shorter."
The 49ers are hopeful Williams can return to his Pro Bowl-caliber play of years past, especially coming off the heels of Staley, who garnered the best run-blocking grade of any tackle over the last 10 years, according to PFF. Williams admitted he hopes to "carry the torch" upon his arrival in San Francisco and make the departure of the veteran an easier task to cope with.
But after eight seasons of missing the playoffs in Washington, the ability to lead San Francisco back to the playoffs and earn another opportunity to hoist a Lombardi Trophy is his top priority.
"I just want to get on the field, man. I can't lie," Williams added. "I've been champing at the bit for some time. I've had my roller coaster of emotions because I did go back (to Washington) at the trade deadline. I was actually getting ready to play. So, I got that adrenaline dump. And now I'm champing at the bit to be able to get on the field with a Super Bowl-caliber team. That's all I can think about right now. I can't think about anything else."