CINCINNATI — The longest-tenured member of the Cincinnati Bengals‘ offensive line is seeking a trade.
Offensive tackle Jonah Williams has expressed his desire to be traded, a source confirmed to ESPN on Friday. The request comes after four-time Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Brown Jr. agreed to terms with the Bengals earlier in the week.
Williams, the Bengals’ first-round selection in 2019, has been their primary starter at left tackle since he arrived. But it appeared he had been supplanted from his position as the team’s anchor on the line after Cincinnati landed Brown on a four-year, $64 million deal that included a $31 million signing bonus.
Brown signed his Bengals contract Friday. In a news conference in Cincinnati, Brown and offensive line coach Frank Pollack told local reporters that the new addition will play left tackle.
Pollack declined to get into specifics regarding Williams’ trade request but said he had spoken to the Bengals’ veteran.
“I hope we get to coach him,” Pollack said. “He’s a good football player. He’s got a bright future. Hopefully it’s still here with the Bengals in 2023.”
If he stays in Cincinnati, Williams also faces possible competition at right tackle. La’el Collins, last year’s right tackle, suffered a torn ACL in the Bengals’ Week 16 win over the New England Patriots last season. Cincinnati also signed Cody Ford, a former second-round pick, on a one-year deal.
Pollack declined to name a starter at right tackle.
“We’ll line up somebody, I promise you, at right tackle when we need to,” Pollack said. “It’ll be fun to figure out how that all works out. That’s part of the excitement of being a part of the NFL.”
Williams’ trade request, which was first reported by NFL Network, came less than 36 hours after Brown committed to the Bengals and less than a day after Ford’s signing was announced.
Brown, a 2018 third-round pick, spent his first three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens as a right tackle before being traded to Kansas City, where he played left tackle.
“I just felt like this was an opportunity for me to be able to be a left tackle and a franchise left tackle,” said Brown, adding that his father, Orlando Brown Sr., never felt he got proper recognition during his 13-year career because he played right tackle instead of left tackle.
After missing his entire first season with a torn labrum, Williams has started 42 games over the past three seasons. He started every regular-season game in 2022 despite suffering a dislocated right kneecap in Week 5 against the Ravens. He suffered the same injury in his left knee during Cincinnati’s wild-card win over Baltimore, which forced him to miss the next two postseason games.
Williams has been the Bengals’ best perimeter pass-blocker in each of the past three seasons. As a tackle, he has led the Bengals in pass block win rate, an ESPN metric powered by NFL Next Gen Stats. He ranked 50th in that category in 2021 but dropped to 55th last season. Brown ranked 18th in pass block win rate as a left tackle for the Chiefs.
Williams is set to play on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal, which is worth $12.6 million. That salary ranks 63rd among offensive tackles, according to Roster Management System.
At the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin deferred questions about moving Williams to right tackle to the coaching staff. Tobin had praise for how Williams played in 2022.
“We picked up the option,” Tobin said Feb. 28. “He’s going to be with us. We think he’s a very good offensive lineman, very good left tackle. When you play tackle in this league, you’re never going to be perfect.”