A rocky 2021 season might have hastened Connor Williams’ exit from the Dallas Cowboys, but there will still be a robust market for the left guard in free agency. Williams ranks 40th on Pro Football Network’s Top 50 Free Agents list, including seventh among offensive linemen and third behind Brandon Scherff and Laken Tomlinson among guards. After a less-than-desirable 2021 campaign, what type of contract could Williams expect to get in the 2022 free agency period?
Connor Williams: Free Agency Overview
A return to the Cowboys doesn’t seem at all likely, especially after Jerry Jones all but singled out Williams for exclusion during Senior Bowl week. Jones said the Cowboys’ offensive line needs to be more disciplined, which was basically a criticism of Williams, who committed a staggering 11 holding penalties in 2021 — the most in the league.
But there’s reason to believe that 2021 will be an outlier. Williams was flagged for holding 16 times total in the previous three seasons. And he was good enough to start 51 games for one of the best offensive lines since 2018. Plus, at just 24 years old, Williams is just now entering the prime of his career.
Recapping Williams’ 2021 season
First, let’s address the bad. Yes, Williams was among the NFL’s most penalized players. Yes, he was benched briefly (before ultimately regaining his job). And yes, there are some red flags about his strength.
But his pass protection was by and large pretty good. He allowed a lone sack in 569 pass-blocking snaps and 13 total pressures in 2021. And he was good enough to be on the field for 77% of the Cowboys’ offensive snaps, helping Dallas rank third in yards per play (6.0), fourth in yards per pass (7.4), seventh in EPA per play (.08), and eighth in yards per carry (4.5).
Williams’ contract estimate and salary cap implications
The Cowboys in 2022 are projected to allocate $61 million in cap space to their offensive line (second-most in football), and as of February 26 were $21.2 million over the cap. In other words, Williams is a luxury they cannot afford — especially since his calculated market value is $13.2 million a year. That’ll be one heck of a bump for a player who has made $7.2 million total in his four NFL seasons.
Possible landing spots for Williams
Most NFL players take the offer with the most guaranteed money (rather than making fit their No. 1 criteria). We expect Williams to join the majority.
He needs to cash in now, and there should be a number of teams willing to pay him. Clubs with offensive guard issues that are flush with cap space include the Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, and New York Jets.
What they’re saying about Williams
“Williams will be an improvement at the position for anybody looking to seriously upgrade the spot. It also wouldn’t surprise me if he slid inside to center eventually to try and mitigate those anchor issues.” — Pro Football Network NFL Analyst Dalton Miller
Listen to the PFN Dolphins Podcast
Listen to the PFN Dolphins Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Dolphins Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms. Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Dolphins Podcast on our NFL YouTube channel.