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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers tackle Trent Williams aims to play until age 40, earn the big bucks

Mar 23, 2021 at 4:17 PM--

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Now that he's officially signed the biggest contract in NFL history for an offensive lineman, 49ers left tackle Trent Williams feels he has a lot of things to prove.

The mere fact Williams was given the contract already proves what the rest of the NFL has known for years, which is that he's one of the league's very best left tackles and is continuing to get paid as such. But it's what awaits Williams at the end of his contract, if he can get there, that serves as some significant motivation for the future.

Williams' contract is worth $138.06 million over six years, but as is the case with a lot of NFL contracts, the guaranteed money starts to run out well before the deal comes to an end. According to figures from, Williams' contract has $40.1 million guaranteed at signing along with another $5 million in guarantees that will kick in if he's on the roster on April 1, 2022. But the entire back half of the contract is made up of option years, which means there's no sure thing at this point that he'll see all the money the deal will pay him from 2024 through 2026.

And they're those years that make up the bulk of the $138.06 million in Williams' contract. The deal will pay Williams $20.05 million in base salary in 2024, $22.5 million in 2025, and a whopping $32.21 million in 2026. When combined with the yearly $100,000 in workout bonuses and $750,000 in per-game roster bonuses, there are more than $75 million waiting for Williams if he's able to play out his deal. The 49ers have to decide if they want to opt in to the final years of Williams' deal by April 1, 2023.

Those figures have led some analysts to refer to the contract as being more of a three-year deal than one that will play out in its entirety, especially given the fact that Williams will be 38 years old in the deal's final year. But Williams wants to prove that not only can he make it until his late 30s, but that he can also play at a high level once he gets there.

"I think those last years, with the numbers being what they are, I think it's an incentive for me not to get complacent and say 'Hey, I've given this league 15 years, maybe I should hang them up,' " Williams said during a media session after the 49ers officially announced his contract Tuesday. "That keeps the incentive, the fire burning on both sides. I never intend on being below average, and the day I do, I will hang the cleats up."

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan would love to see Williams reach that goal, seeing as how it would mean he wouldn't have to worry about the left tackle position until late in the decade. Williams is showing no signs of slowing down right now, which makes him think he has more than enough gas left in the tank to reach the end of his deal.

"I'm 32 at this point, about to be 33," Williams said. "When I look at my career, look at my career path, I've been to the Pro Bowl the last eight years I touched the field. So I'm not really worried about a decline at the moment. I know six years is a lot, but I do think it's possible. And I do appreciate the 49ers for adding that incentive to go and get that fifth and sixth year, which is the first thing Kyle said to me after we agreed, which is 'Hey, go get that sixth year.'"

Williams gains confidence in his ability to reach the end of his deal by seeing other left tackles play late into their 30s, such as Andrew Whitworth of the Rams and former Eagles tackle and current free agent Jason Peters. The nature of the left tackle position should also help due to it being more protected from injuries than other positions across the offensive line.

"I definitely think we're a little bit away from the big pile-up, the big mash-up," Williams said. "And most of the time, we might be going against somebody half our size, whereas a guard might be going against somebody 30 pounds heavier. That obviously is the laws of physics right there. That'll let you know that's a little bit different type of pounding that you take. So I think that may have something to do with it."

Williams is well aware that he could feel differently a few years from now and that next season is never a sure thing for NFL players who are well into their 30s. But at the moment, as his next chapter with the 49ers gets underway, Williams has every reason to think he'll still be a factor when his new contract comes to an end.

"I think just going off of that and knowing the medicine now and the way the NFL takes care of their players now, I think yeah, I think playing until 40 is well within reach," Williams said. "The way I feel right now, I do think I have six years in my body. But I'm not going to be unrealistic. I'm going to take it one day at a time and continue to plug away at it. But that is the goal. I have something to prove. Can I play at a high level until I'm 40? We'll see."

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