TINSMAN: Trying to make sense of the Trent Williams trade

April 28, 2020 - 12:00 pm

Although he has been gone from his post as Washington Redskins team president for months, Bruce Allen got one last curtain call this weekend with the trade of Trent Williams – an inevitability that he set into motion more than a year ago.

In what will go down as one of the greatest "he-said, he-said" embarrassments in D.C. sports history, Allen sabotaged the value of one of the best players on his team, causing Williams to drag the team's front office and medical personnel through the mud.

In the end, Allen got fired, head trainer Larry Hess got fired, and Williams got traded for peanuts on day three of the NFL Draft.

That's not a knock on new center Keith Ismael (taken with the 156th pick in this draft), whoever will be taken with the 49ers' third-round pick in next year's draft, or even offensive tackle Saahdiq Charles, who could fill Williams' spot on the line.

It's a frank understanding that the Redskins did not get fair value back for Williams, and have nothing to blame but their recent past.

Williams has dealt with a number of nagging injuries in recent years, but a year away from the game could actually resurrect his career.

With seven Pro Bowl appearances under his belt, years of captain patches to his name, and a deep desire to prove the Redskins wrong, he could put the 49ers over the top.

San Francisco knew going into the draft that longtime left tackle, Joe Staley – who had not yet announced his intentions for 2020 – was going to retire. By delaying his announcement, Staley gave his organization the gift of trade leverage.

With that, the 49ers outwaited Cleveland, Minnesota and others, waiting for the Redskins to blink on a low-ball offer. Then they pulled off a heist.

In September, the Browns reportedly offered the Redskins a first-round pick in the 2020 draft, and Allen held out, either for more value or spite. As recently as Wednesday, Dan Patrick told his national radio audience that the Redskins would get a first-round pick for Williams on Thursday.

Thursday night came and went, so the goalposts got moved. 106.7 The Fan's Grant Paulsen surmised that the Redskins wanted and would get a second-round pick, but Friday came and went as well.

When a deal was finally consummated on Saturday, there was a collective sigh of relief from Redskins fans. More than three-quarters of those polled by The Junkies on Twitter said they liked the Trent Williams trade.

But why?

The value of draft picks is in the eye of the beholder, but several value tables have been produced over the years to better understand how teams strike draft-day deals. For a comparison exercise, let's use the one produced by Pro Football Reference.

Had the Redskins found a trade partner in the first round, that pick would have had a value between 3,000 points for the first overall pick, and 590 points for the 32nd. The Browns' 10th pick was valued at 1,300 points and the Vikings' 22nd pick was valued at 780.

After failing to do so, the Redskins could have found a trade partner in the second or third rounds, with values varying between 580 and 120 points. They did not accomplish that either.

Instead, they got the 156th pick, valued at 29 points, and next year's third-rounder (which has less value because it is a year away). Consider also, that had the Redskins convinced Williams to play out the last year of his contract, they may have gotten a mid-round compensatory pick when he left as a free agent next offseason.

Williams has arguably been the best Redskins player over the last decade. His seven Pro Bowl selections have been bested by only seven other offensive tackles since the 1970 NFL merger. While not a sure-fire Hall of Famer, he has a chance to earn his gold jacket in San Francisco.

Somewhere, Mike and Kyle Shanahan are high-fiving.

As for the Redskins, salvaging Allen's self-sabotage may be the best-case scenario. Head coach Ron Rivera could do without the distraction and he has no lingering animosity with the Shanahans or Williams. As "Riverboat Ron" likely knows, sometimes you have to know when your hand tells you to fold.

Brian Tinsman has covered D.C. sports since 2011, both from the team marketing and skeptical fan perspectives. Tweet your criticisms @Brian_Tinsman.

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