On Monday afternoon, Bengals beat reporter Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer made a grand reveal for NFL rumor hounds. She tweeted that the Jacksonville Jaguars “had real interest in making a trade for Jonah [Williams].
The latest on #Bengals Jonah Williams:— Kelsey Conway (@KelseyLConway) May 15, 2023
Jags had real interest in making a trade for Jonah. Cincy & JAX had talks prior to the draft, per a source. Bengals opted not to move him.
Jonah is expected to participate in the mandatory activities & play this season in Cincy at RT
Williams was drafted 11th overall in 2019 after three All-SEC seasons at Alabama. Unfortunately, he missed his rookie season due to a torn labrum suffered in OTAs. Williams started 10 games at left tackle in his second year before finishing the season on IR.
During Cincinnati’s 2021 Super Bowl run, though, Williams was “a key component for keeping superstar QB Joe Burrow upright,” as Brandon Thorne wrote in his Trench Warfare Newsletter.
Williams’ performance was a bit overshadowed because of how leaky and inconsistent the right side of the Bengals’ O-line was during the year. When you focus on Williams’ play alone, it becomes clear that he is a high-quality left tackle, capable of being left on an island in critical situations against top competition. He’s also an impactful, scheme-diverse run-blocker that the offense can rely on.
Williams did regress a bit in 2022 after dislocating both kneecaps and needing offseason surgery for one of them. (No, the Bengals didn’t play the Lions last year.) Williams set to earn $12.6 million this season on his fifth-year option.
In March, Cincinnati signed Orlando Brown Jr. to start at left tackle, and Williams promptly requested a trade.
It seems that the Jaguars were among his suitors prior to April’s draft.
The #Bengals have had trade conversations centered around LT Jonah Williams, sources say, as the interest heats up in the player who has 47 career starts. Williams requested a trade following the signing of Orlando Brown, and Cincy has heard from several possible suitors.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 22, 2023
A trade never materialized, and the Jaguars went on to select Oklahoma’s three-year blindside protector Anton Harrison 27th overall. According to Conway, Williams is expected to play right tackle in Cincinnati this year.
Mid-round compensation for a one-year rental of a young and #good (albeit injury prone and short-armed) offensive tackle would’ve been a nice move for Jacksonville. Harrison was an A- pick but came with significant opportunity cost; the Jaguars could’ve traded for Williams, drafted a first-round defensive player, and arguably been better-suited for a 2023 postseason run.
Alas. Here’s some Anton Harrison tape to drown out our collective “what if” thoughts.