Jonah Williams

Bengals Want To Re-Sign Tee Higgins, Uncertain To Retain Jonah Williams

Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin quickly took Tee Higgins out of trade rumors in his contract year, indicating the team’s No. 2 wide receiver would not be available. While Higgins did not take a step forward in 2023, he still stands to be one of the top pass catchers available — should the Ja’Marr Chase sidekick reach free agency.

Tobin is a bit less emphatic about Higgins’ future with the team this year. The former second-round pick played out his rookie deal and will be eligible for unrestricted free agency in March. If the Bengals do not have Higgins franchise-tagged by March 5 or re-signed by March 11, the Clemson product will be free to speak with other teams.

Seeing as Chase will understandably be the receiver priority and the team having made Joe Burrow the NFL’s highest-paid player, the prospect of losing Higgins has long been on the horizon. The Bengals do, however, want to re-sign the four-year starter. A January report also indicated the team is prepared to tag the 6-foot-4 pass catcher.

We’ll see what happens this year,” Tobin said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Kelsey Conway. “I want Tee Higgins back. Everyone on our team would like to have Tee Higgins back. Again, there’s one pie and how big of a slice that takes and what else we can’t do because of it, we’ll have to determine and we’ll see.”

Higgins, who finished an injury-plagued season with career-low marks in receptions (42) and yards (656), would cost approximately $21.7MM to retain on the tag. The Bengals cuffed A.J. Green back in 2020. That situation, when Burrow was on a rookie deal, obviously differs from present circumstances. Burrow is now the NFL’s salary kingpin, and Chase is on track to one day become the league’s highest-paid receiver.

Thanks to the fifth-year option, Chase can be kept on his rookie contract through the 2025 season. No team in the fifth-year option era has extended a first-round receiver with two years of control remaining on a rookie deal; as was the case with Justin Jefferson in Minnesota, this points Cincinnati toward Chase extension talks in his fifth year (2025) rather than this offseason.

Still, a future with Chase on a deal that eclipses $30MM per year will impact the Bengals’ decision on Higgins. The sides engaged in extension talks before the season, but Higgins did not find the team’s offer appealing. The Bengals still rebuffed trade interest before the deadline. Burrow’s contract also features a midlevel cap number in 2024 ($29.7MM) before spiking past $45MM in 2025. Burrow’s contract structure and the prospect of Chase being kept on a rookie rate next season does keep the door open for a Higgins rental year.

Tobin seems less optimistic Jonah Williams can be retained. The Bengals blindsided Williams by signing Orlando Brown Jr. to a $16MM-per-year deal, a move that kicked the three-year left tackle to the right side. Williams requested a trade but returned to the fold during the summer. It certainly looks like the four-year O-line starter will be on the move soon.

I don’t know what the future holds. We’ll see,” Tobin said, via Conway. “We’ve got this pie, whether there’s a big enough piece of pie for him or he’s going to get a bigger piece of pie somewhere else, we’ll see. It’s hard to predict right now exactly what other teams are going to do and their interest level in any of our free agents. We’re proud of Jonah for the way he played.”

Williams, 26, returned from his postseason knee injury to start all 17 Bengals games this past season. Pro Football Focus graded him 59th among tackles, and it will be interesting to see if Williams makes it clear ahead of free agency he wants to return to left tackle for his next team. Regardless of position, the 2019 first-round pick would be one of the top O-linemen available if he hits the market.

Latest On Bengals’ Right Tackle Situation

The Bengals’ Orlando Brown Jr. signing created a crowded situation at right tackle, seeing three-year left tackle starter Jonah Williams begrudgingly change positions. But the former first-round pick is settling in at his new spot.

Williams rescinded his trade request earlier this summer, and Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic notes he is the clear leader in this tackle matchup. The top Williams competitor coming into camp, Jackson Carman, no longer appears a serious threat to start opposite Brown. Carman may now be battling for a roster spot (subscription required).

Although Carman lost two guard battles in his first two training camps, he fared better as Williams’ left tackle replacement in the playoffs. The former second-round pick replaced Williams against the Ravens in the wild-card round, after the starter suffered a dislocated left knee, and started against the Bills and Chiefs. But Carman may no longer be competing with Williams for the starting RT role; Dehner adds fellow 2021 draftee D’Ante Smith is pushing Carman for the swing role.

Smith has seen time at right tackle recently, moving over from the second-string left tackle role he had held earlier. With Williams in place as the top Brown replacement option, as the Bengals would slide him back to his old spot and move their swingman to right tackle, Dehner notes the RT2 role represents the Bengals’ top tackle backup. Viewed as a project upon coming into the league as a fourth-rounder out of East Carolina, Smith has played just 56 career offensive snaps.

Cincinnati’s right tackle situation will become more complicated when La’el Collins comes off the active/PUP list. Rehabbing ACL and MCL tears, Collins is a candidate for the reserve/PUP list but may also be a cap casualty. Given Collins’ experience, he would stand to generate interest from tackle-needy teams if released. Collins, 30, has not returned to practice. The Bengals were also not exactly thrilled with his pre-injury work.

As for Williams, he can create a nice free agent market with a good contract year. The 2019 first-round pick last played right tackle as a freshman at Alabama. Pro Football Focus graded Williams outside the top 60 at tackle last season, but the veteran blocker attributed his shakier form to not being 100% after a Week 5 kneecap subluxation. The Bengals and Jaguars discussed Williams before the draft, but Jacksonville took Anton Harrison in Round 1. No trade rumblings regarding Williams have come out since.

He looks like he’s been there for a few years,” Bengals offensive line coach Frank Pollack said, via Dehner, of Williams. “I’m impressed. He’s a good player. He’s athletic, he’s a smart player and he’s just grooving that power hand and that power foot, and my hat’s off to him. It’s really been a lot more seamless and smooth than I would anticipate for any guy.”

While Williams is going into a contract year, two seasons remain on Carman and Smith’s rookie deals. Collins is under contract through 2024 as well, though the Bengals would take on just $1.7MM in dead money by releasing him before September’s vested veteran guarantee date.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/23/23

Here are today’s minor moves heading into the week:

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Detroit Lions

Ravens fans can breathe a sigh of relief now that Bateman is set to return for camp. Bateman missed most of the team’s spring activities after receiving a cortisone shot in hopes it would help him get back in time for camp. It was slightly concerning that he didn’t initially report with the rest of the team, but general manager Eric DeCosta had reassured the media that Bateman was expected back soon. Two days later and Bateman should be in attendance for camp to start this week.

Claypool has been dealing with a soft tissue injury from earlier in the offseason. He was expected back in time for camp but clearly will have to wait a bit to rejoin the team.

With the departure of Eli Apple in free agency, Awuzie is expected to take a step up in the Bengals’ defense this year. Cincinnati will hope to get him back and working with the first-team secondary again soon. The absences of Cochran and Collins leave the team a little thin on tackle depth, but the starters remain available as Jonah Williams avoids any injury designations.

Detroit will have Jameson Williams available for training camp but not for the start of the season. The Lions will be hoping to get the opposite result for Jones, who will be unavailable to start camp.

Jonah Williams Addresses Bengals Future, Recovery Timeline

With the Bengals having added Orlando Brown Jr. this offseason to operate on the blindside, plenty of questions have been raised regarding the future of Jonah Williams. The team’s now-former left tackle is in attendance at mandatory minicamp, and he spoke about his approach to the 2023 season and his recovery from knee surgery.

Williams requested a trade upon Brown’s arrival, something which will relegate the former first-rounder to competing for the starting right tackle spot. He is due $12.6MM this season on the fifth-year option, making the 2023 campaign a crucial one as he approaches free agency for the first time in his career. Williams was not present for Cincinnati’s voluntary OTAs, but he has arrived for the three-day mandatory minicamp.

“I’ll be happy to be a contributor on a team where I have so many great teammates,” the Alabama product said, via Geoff Hobson of the team’s website“l love everyone in the room, love the coaches, love the fans. I’m stoked.”

Those remarks could represent a withdrawal of Williams’ trade request, something which failed to yield much in the way of tangible conversations for the Bengals on the subject of a potential swap. The Jaguars are the only known team which discussed a potential trade for the 25-year-old. With his future set to remain in Cincinnati, Williams is turning his attention to his health ahead of the 2023 season.

A dislocated kneecap cost him much of the team’s playoff run last season, prompting surgery and leading to questions about his ability to return to full health and at least match his performances of years past. Williams is confident that he will be back on the field in time for training camp next month, though, which will give him the opportunity to challenge for the RT spot with the likes of La’el Collins (when healthy), Jackson Carman, Cody Ford and Hakeem Adeniji. That endeavor is something he is approaching with confidence.

“I’m incorporating my rehab into football drills working out of the right tackle stance,” Williams added. “[The biggest adjustment] is re-learning everything for the other side of your body. Opposite stance… It’s nothing that reps and practice won’t get me used to… There’s a lot of technique to kind of unlearn and switch to the other side. It’s my job. I love it… I’m going to crush it.”

Bengals, Jaguars Held Jonah Williams Trade Talks

At least one known Jonah Williams suitor has surfaced. During an offseason in which Jawaan Taylor bolted for Kansas City and Cam Robinson received a PED suspension, the Jaguars showed interest in the disgruntled Bengals tackle.

The Bengals and Jaguars discussed a Williams trade, Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports (on Twitter). These discussions commenced before the draft, and Jacksonville’s draft blueprint looks to have changed its outlook at the tackle position. The Jags made a concerted effort to use their late-first-round real estate to come away with Oklahoma prospect Anton Harrison. The team doing that (and picking up draft capital via trade-down maneuvers with the Giants and Bills) probably removed a Williams buyer from the equation.

This would have been an interesting fit for Williams, whose trade request came just after big-ticket Bengals free agent signing Orlando Brown Jr. displaced him at left tackle. While the NFL hit Robinson with the PED ban — the length of which remains unknown — and the six-year left tackle starter is coming off a late-season meniscus tear, he will presumably be back at some point before midseason. These circumstances would have left Williams as a potential right-side solution for the Jags, who have since obtained Harrison to man that post.

As it stands now, Williams is on track to stay with the Bengals. The team has long been prepared to move its three-year blindside starter to right tackle, and Conway adds the former first-round pick is expected to report to the Bengals’ minicamp and begin his reluctant run on the right side.

Williams resides in a tough spot, being effectively demoted ahead of his contract year. The Bengals’ top O-lineman during their Super Bowl LVI charge, Williams suffered a dislocated kneecap that kept him off the field for the 2022 Bengals’ final two games. The Chiefs pounced on a Bengals line missing Williams, La’el Collins and Alex Cappa. With the Chiefs’ former left tackle in the fold, Williams, Collins and postseason left tackle sub Jackson Carman are ticketed for an unusual position battle.

Other teams will undoubtedly be monitoring Williams and Collins’ situations, considering the loser of this competition may become available via trade. Collins signed a three-year, $21MM contract in 2022, but the Bengals were not thrilled with the longtime Cowboy’s Cincy debut. Williams is going into his fifth-year option season, at $12.6MM, and stands to be one of the 2024 free agent market’s better O-linemen available. Two seasons remains on Carman’s rookie deal.

Latest On Bengals, Jonah Williams

The Bengals did not draft an offensive lineman, but the two-time reigning AFC North champions still have a potential three-man race for their right tackle position brewing.

Jonah Williams remains part of that equation, albeit reluctantly. The three-year Cincinnati left tackle starter — forced into a position change after the team’s Orlando Brown Jr. signing — remains with the team, and ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler notes no substantive trade talks around the fifth-year blocker transpired during the draft. As a result, Williams is expected to remain with the Bengals in his contract year.

Williams’ trade request surfaced shortly after the Brown signing, and the former first-round pick is believed to have been blindsided (no pun intended) by the Brown addition. The former Alabama blocker did not show for the start of Bengals voluntary workouts and cannot be fined for his absence until the team’s minicamp. With the 2020 CBA making training camp fines steep enough it has largely curtailed holdouts, Williams — assuming he is still on the Bengals’ roster by that point — should be expected to rejoin his teammates.

La’el Collins remains rostered as well, but the longtime Cowboys starter-turned-Bengals signing is coming off December ACL and MCL tears. No firm return timetable is known. Zac Taylor also said (via The Athletic’s Jay Morrison) former second-round pick Jackson Carman, who replaced Williams at left tackle when the latter suffered a dislocated kneecap during the playoffs, will be part of the right tackle competition. Carman struggled at guard, seeing Cordell Volson usurp him quickly, but Taylor including him in the tackle competition points to either Collins or Williams not being in the picture.

Collins’ three-year, $21MM contract runs through 2024, though his injury trouble and issues in pass protection last season led to the Bengals pursuing tackles in free agency. They had not expected to land Brown, but after the two-year Chiefs blindsider’s reps contacted the Bengals, talks progressed quickly. Williams, who has not played right tackle since his freshman year at Alabama, has one season — a fifth-year option, at $12.6MM — remaining on his deal. The Bengals viewed a post-Round 1 tackle addition as one that would only further cloud their already-complicated right tackle mix, Morrison adds (subscription required).

Five teams took first-round tackles, further limiting Williams’ market. The Jets still come to mind as a possible suitor, seeing as they were widely rumored to be eyeing Broderick Jones — before the Steelers moved ahead of them for the Georgia tackle — and have an unsteady setup at left tackle. New York rosters the league’s oldest tackle — in Duane Brown, who is coming off surgery — and has seen knee injuries sideline Mekhi Becton for all but one game since his rookie year. The Buccaneers, who cut Donovan Smith in March, could also be interested. They are not yet certain to move All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs to the left side.

Right tackle-needy teams will likely be monitoring Collins as well. For now, however, Williams and Collins remain on Cincy’s roster ahead of what would be one of this year’s most interesting position battles.

Bengals Expected To Ask Joe Mixon To Take Pay Cut

The Bengals figure to be on the radar for a notable running back investment in this year’s draft. Cincinnati’s longest-tenured starting back since Corey Dillon has long been on shaky ground to return for a seventh season.

It appears Joe Mixon will soon face a decision: take a pay cut or be cut. The Bengals are expected to ask the six-year starter to accept a pay reduction soon, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Signed through 2024, Mixon is attached to base salaries of $9.4MM (2023) and $9.7MM (’24). Bengals executive VP Katie Blackburn stopped well short of guaranteeing Mixon would be back when asked in March.

Mixon sits in a similar situation to Dalvin Cook, whom the Vikings are not guaranteed to keep. Both players signed extensions just before the 2020 season, with Cook’s deal ($12.6MM per year) coming in just north of Mixon’s ($12MM AAV). While Cook signed a five-year Vikes re-up, Mixon inked a four-year deal to be the Bengals’ long-term back. Cook is coming off a better year than Mixon, who averaged 3.9 yards per carry and finished with 814 on the ground in 14 games. Pro Football Focus ranked Mixon 57th out of 62 qualified backs in elusiveness last season.

This year’s running back market showed the grim reality Cook and Mixon could soon face. Being released at this juncture of the offseason generally leads to a pay reduction on the market, as teams spend much of their offseason funds early in free agency. Mixon and Cook being running backs stands to place a low cap on their value, especially in the event they become midyear free agents.

No back who signed a free agent contract in March cracked the top 10 in earnings at the position. Even as the cap rises, backs’ replaceability has led to the position’s top salary (Christian McCaffrey‘s $16MM-per-year deal) going unchanged over the past three years. McCaffrey signed his Panthers extension in April 2020.

Developments on this year’s market could lead to Cincinnati asking Mixon to take a substantial pay cut, as the former second-round pick has also run into another off-field issue. Mixon, 26, is facing a misdemeanor aggravated menacing charge stemming from a traffic incident ahead of the Bengals’ trip to Buffalo in January. The Bengals took a chance on the Oklahoma alum’s upside, drafting him despite the Sooners having once suspended him for breaking four bones in a woman’s face during a 2014 assault at a restaurant. More off-field trouble will not help Mixon’s cause, as a suspension could be in the cards for the veteran.

Mixon is one year removed from his best season, when he helped the Bengals to Super Bowl LVI by amassing career-high totals in scrimmage yards (1,509) and touchdowns (16). The Bengals also lost multiyear backup Samaje Perine in free agency. Cincinnati offered Perine a similar deal to the one he signed in Denver (two years, $7.5MM), but Mixon’s former Oklahoma teammate opted for a potentially bigger role — on a team with Javonte Williams rehabbing an ACL tear — rather than return. Perine’s defection complicates the Bengals’ backfield situation, though the team can augment it by drafting a running back early. The Bengals have taken second-round backs three times since 2013 (Mixon, Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard); Dillon was also a second-rounder back in 1997.

Should the Bengals designate Mixon as a post-June 1 cut, it would save them $10.1MM. For a team planning extensions, that is an appealing number. The Bengals have Joe Burrow and linebacker Logan Wilson on their extension radar, and the team shut down Tee Higgins trade talk ahead of his contract year. Higgins is interested in a Bengals extension, but Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase‘s statuses complicate his long-term Cincy stay.

On that front, neither Higgins nor Wilson reported for the start of the Bengals’ offseason program Monday. They joined disgruntled tackle Jonah Williams in not showing for the start of voluntary workouts, per Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer, who adds Wilson is seeking an extension. Following the Bengals’ signing of Orlando Brown Jr. — a deal contingent upon the ex-Ravens and Chiefs blocker playing left tackle — Williams requested a trade. Modest interest has emerged; the Bengals will aim to keep the former first-round pick, who joins Higgins and Wilson in heading into a contract year. It is not uncommon for higher-profile players to skip part or all of offseason workouts, but the Bengals’ contract situation will obviously be one to monitor — especially now that Jalen Hurts raised the QB salary ceiling earlier today.

Jonah Williams Trade Market Limited; Bengals T Blindsided By Brown Signing

Jonah Williams requested a trade out of Cincinnati shortly after the team gave Orlando Brown a four-year, $64MM contract. While many around the league view Brown’s best position as right tackle, the Bengals are accommodating the former Ravens and Chiefs blocker’s wish to play on the left side.

When the Bengals signed Brown, Williams learned about it like the rest of the football world did. The three-year Cincinnati left tackle starter was “blindsided” by the move, Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. The Bengals have talked about wanting Williams at right tackle, but Conway adds they did not communicate those plans to the former first-round pick ahead of time.

It is not exactly uncommon for teams to move forward with big-picture plans without informing players those strategies will affect, though franchises have made a habit of alerting quarterbacks to future additions at the position in recent years. The Bengals, however, did not expect to land Brown. The Pro Bowl tackle’s reps contacted the team, according to Bengals director of pro scouting Steven Radicevic (via The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr.).

Nearly three days after the legal tampering period gave agents permission to negotiate with teams, Brown remained unsigned. The Bengals entered free agency wanting to re-sign Vonn Bell, Germaine Pratt, Hayden Hurst and Samaje Perine, Dehner adds, noting the team viewed Jessie Bates as out of its price range. Bates signed a four-year, $64MM Falcons deal on the tampering period’s first day. Bell’s age prompted the Bengals to set a firm ceiling on his negotiations, leading the eighth-year safety to the Panthers, who later signed Hurst to what turned out to be this year’s top tight end deal. Perine defected to the Broncos for terms nearly identical to what the Bengals offered.

Brown’s camp showed interest in the Bengals on March 14; the sides agreed to terms March 15. Seeking a job on another contender, Brown said Joe Burrow‘s presence attracted him to Cincinnati; the Bengals will give him $42.4MM in the deal’s first two years. The upfront cash sealed the deal, per Dehner. The Bengals were looking at free agent tackles, Dehner adds, but initially eyeing lower-priced options. One of those coming to Cincinnati may not have led to Williams being moved off his starting spot without competition, but Brown’s pedigree will. As a result, Williams wants out.

Zac Taylor said this week he expects Williams to be back and partake in a competition at right tackle, a position the former has not played since his freshman season at Alabama. Going into a contract year, Williams wants to stay at his position.

We want guys that are willing to do to help us win games,” Taylor said, via Conway. “And I understand there’s comfort levels playing certain sides. Trust me, I played quarterback so I’m not going to sit there and pretend that I’ve got experience moving from right guard to left guard. I know that there’s some reps that need to take place to feel completely comfortable with that, but most of these guys have done it at some point in their career. So they’ve at least got experience doing it and that’s just the way it will go for us.”

Williams’ 6-foot-4, 305-pound frame was a factor in the team prioritizing the 6-8, 340-pound Brown, Conway adds, and Dehner notes Collins’ injury issues — which also included a back problem that prevented the ex-Cowboys standout from practicing on Wednesdays last season — and struggles in pass protection led to the Bengals pursuing tackles. Bengals O-line coach Frank Pollack has said the plan is for Collins to compete for the job, and Taylor alluded to former second-round pick Jackson Carman — a converted guard the team moved to tackle to replace Williams during the playoffs — being part of it as well.

Although an early report surfaced indicating Williams was generating interest from several teams, Outkick.com’s Armando Salguero notes no team has proven willing to send the Bengals a high draft choice for their hopeful right tackle. Williams is due $12.6MM on his fifth-year option this season. Teams like the Colts, Jets and Buccaneers would make sense as Williams destinations, but as of now, he is ticketed for what would be an unusual position battle with Collins, whom the Bengals gave a three-year, $21MM deal in 2022, and potentially Carman.

Both Williams and Collins are coming off season-ending knee injuries; Williams suffered a dislocated kneecap and Collins ACL and MCL tears. These maladies played a major role in the Chiefs prevailing in the teams’ AFC championship game rematch despite a gimpy Patrick Mahomes. Brown switching sides in this rivalry may lead to another falling domino, but as of now, no Williams trade is imminent.

Bengals LT Jonah Williams Drawing Interest From Several Teams

The Bengals’ Orlando Brown Jr. signing led to their three-year left tackle starter — Jonah Williamsrequesting a trade. The team appears open to accommodating the former first-round pick.

Several teams have shown interest in Williams, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, and the Bengals have engaged in trade talks. Williams, 25, is heading into his fifth-year option season and is tied to a $12.6MM base salary. That figure is fully guaranteed.

Cincinnati’s initial plan was to slide Williams to right tackle, a position he has not played since his freshman season at Alabama (2016). Just as Brown did not want to move to the right side, where some teams viewed him as a better fit, Williams is resisting such a change. Also complicating matters for the reigning AFC north champions: La’el Collins is coming off ACL and MCL tears. With those injuries occurring on Christmas Eve, the former Cowboy is not a lock to start the season on time.

A team that trades for Williams would likely need to view him as an extension candidate, but the 2019 first-rounder is coming off a season in which he suffered multiple kneecap issues. The second of which kept him out of the Bengals’ playoff games in Buffalo and Kansas City. The Chiefs withstood Patrick Mahomes‘ limitations in the latter matchup by preying on a backup-laden Bengals front. This led to the Brown signing, and it could lead the team’s longest-tenured O-line starter out of town.

The Patriots are obviously not averse to acquiring starters via trade, and a low-level Riley Reiff signing has headlined their tackle moves. The Pats were believed to be searching for a right tackle in free agency; Reiff would technically fit the bill, but the ex-Bengal is going into his age-34 season. Trent Brown, whom the Pats initially acquired ahead of the final year of his rookie contract, played 17 games last season but has been unreliable since signing a big-ticket Raiders deal back in 2019. Brown, who is going into the second season of a two-year contract, is penciled in at left tackle.

The Jets have Duane Brown under contract, but he is coming off surgery and going into an age-38 season. The team moved Mekhi Becton to right tackle; the former first-rounder’s position has taken a backseat over the past two years, which have involved major knee injuries that have limited him to one game. Washington has Charles Leno signed through 2024 but was linked to left tackle options ahead of free agency, while Tampa Bay released eight-year left tackle starter Donovan Smith. The soon-to-be 30-year-old blocker also serves as an option for the left tackle-seeking teams around the league, as do college prospects. ESPN’s Scouts Inc. rates five tackles — Peter Skoronski, Paris Johnson, Broderick Jones, Darnell Wright and Anton Harrison — as first-round-caliber players.

While Williams has made 42 starts and played a key role for a Super Bowl-qualifying team, his contract and this year’s rookie class stands to affect his trade value. Collins’ injury will make it unlikely the Bengals cave to Williams’ trade request without a viable return price, so it should not be considered a lock they move the now-disgruntled tackle. But Wednesday morning’s report indicates the team is not shutting down overtures.

Bengals LT Jonah Williams Requests Trade

The Bengals signed Orlando Brown Jr. to a four-year, $64MM deal. That is in line with the right tackle position’s upper echelon, but the team is prepared to keep Brown at his preferred blindside post. That has become an issue for Cincinnati’s incumbent left tackle.

Jonah Williams has requested a trade, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). The former first-round pick has been the Bengals’ starting left tackle for the past three seasons and is set to play his fifth-year option campaign in 2023.

It would seem the Bengals need to part ways with one of their returning tackle starters. Their plans with Brown would mean a Williams relocation either way — to right tackle or to another team. Williams is due a $12.6MM salary this season; the Bengals signed Brown to a deal that will pay him $16MM on average.

It is not yet known if the Bengals are willing to entertain trade talks here, as option B would mean moving on from La’el Collins. The team would save $6MM by cutting Collins, though the former Cowboys blocker is tied to the team at an affordable rate (three years, $21MM). Collins is due just $4.5MM in base salary this season.

Following Cincinnati’s Brown investment, offensive line coach Frank Pollack said Williams and Collins would engage in what would be a high-profile position battle. Pollack said Williams would be moving to right tackle.

We see competition always brings out the best in everybody,” Pollack said during an appearance on Dave Lapham’s In the Trenches podcast (h/t Cincy Jungle). “We got [La’el Collins] rehabbing, we’ll move [Jonah Williams] over there. We’re excited for that to develop and bring out the best of what we’ve got in the room on the offensive line.”

Of course, Pollack will not exactly indicate the organization’s plans to move one of these options. Both would seemingly be above the competition level, but the Bengals operate like one of the league’s more old-school franchises. It would not be shocking to see the team take all three tackles into training camp, even if a Williams trade would bring the most in terms of assets. But the team may need all three tackles to start the year. Collins suffered ACL and MCL tears on Christmas Eve.

Williams battled back from missing his rookie year due to a shoulder injury; the Alabama product has started 42 games since making his debut in 2020. Williams, 25, also has experience at right tackle. He lined up there for the Crimson Tide as a freshman in 2016, playing opposite future Jaguars second-round pick Cam Robinson that year. Alabama slid Williams to the left side for his sophomore season, and he zoomed onto the first-round radar after two seasons at that spot.

Williams being a left tackle since Alabama’s 2017 national championship season would make a transition back to the right side difficult, and the Bengals acknowledged this at the Combine (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Mike Giardi). Pro Football Focus viewed Williams as a top-35 tackle during Cincinnati’s 2021 season, when they experienced issues at just about every other spot up front despite winning an AFC title, but slotted him outside the top 60 in 2022.

Still, Brown being off the market would make Williams an attractive trade chip — even though there are not too many teams carrying left tackle needs at this point. The Titans signed Andre Dillard, while the Chiefs are planning to kick Jawaan Taylor to the left side. Kansas City is a nonfactor here, as Cincinnati would almost definitely not trade Williams to the defending champion. Ditto Pittsburgh, which could use a left tackle upgrade. The Buccaneers have been connected to moving Tristan Wirfs to the left side as well. The Jets may be in need at the position, though Duane Brown plans to play his age-38 season, while the Patriots are tentatively expected to bring back Trent Brown.