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No one knew just how close Trent Williams was to signing with the Kansas City Chiefs, until Tuesday. Calling it “too close for comfort” may be a damning understatement. Based on Williams’ recollection, drawing back to the wee hours of the morning of March 17, he was going to sign with the Chiefs.
But Williams said he made a promise to Kyle Shanahan; if he was going to go elsewhere, he had to tell Kyle first. And as Williams said, he couldn’t even bring himself to do it.
He said he texted the head coach on his way into dinner at Thirteen, the James Harden-owned Houston restaurant where Williams’ good friend, part-owner and head chef at Thirteen, Tobias Dorzon, was waiting, along with Williams’ other close friends. Dorzon would be the one to post the now-iconic video of Williams outside the restaurant taking a call from Williams’ agent, Vincent Taylor, that a deal with the 49ers had been struck.
The message to Shanahan, Williams said, was that he’d be making his final decision once he’d finished dinner. The Chiefs were close, and if the 49ers didn’t come through with the right offer, well, Williams would be protecting Patrick Mahomes’ blind side for the foreseeable future.
“I had good conversations with people in that organization, and they made a good push,” Williams said. “My agent, I guess him and Paraag [Marathe] maybe stalled out. I’m not sure. I kind of removed myself from that part of it. But I always told Kyle since day one, that if I was going to go anywhere I will call him first and let him know what the matter was.”
Whether intentional or not, there was a clear bit of shade thrown in the direction of Marathe, the 49ers’ executive vice president of football operations, who is the team’s main contract negotiator. He is, as many an agent have found out, a discernible pain in the rear when it comes to getting as many 49ers-favorable details worked into the deal as possible, especially if a player’s price is higher than he’d prefer.
“Once I got the hunch that KC seemed like they were getting ready to make it official, I called Kyle,” Williams said. “I was just like, hey man, we need to hurry this up, if you catch my drift. Tell Paraag, whatever they gotta do, tell him and Vince to work something out, because I’m ready to go ahead and make my decision.”
Shanahan called back as Williams was heading into the restaurant, and Williams returned the call, a FaceTime (as Williams said is the only way Shanahan calls his players), 10 minutes later outside the restaurant.
“I didn’t even have the heart to say, ‘Hey, I think I’m going to sign with somebody else.’ I just told him, ‘Hey Kyle, I’m ready to get this over with. If whatever is the last offer, it’s the last offer, I appreciate it, but I’m just ready to make my decision.’ So, you know, we had a good talk. I think I went back in, ate dinner, by the time I literally got my keys from valet and sat in the car, my agent was calling me telling me the deal was done. So it didn’t take more than about an hour or so.”
It’s clear that Williams’ tight relationship with the Shanahans, and their shared disdain for Washington, were massive in his decision. Just 24 hours before free agency began, Williams said he hung out with Mike Shanahan in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where he said they discussed roughly everything besides his pending free agency.
Williams made it apparent at every step that he wanted to stay with the 49ers, it just had to be at the right price. And even when the price was wrong, he reached out to Shanahan one last time to try and remain in the place he hoped he could make his long-term home.
Shanahan got the message, and an hour or so later, Williams was signed to the 49ers potentially for the remainder of his career, on a six-year, $130.6 million deal which is the richest deal for an offensive lineman in NFL history. It is effectively a three-year deal, in which, if the 49ers decide to pick up the second three years, they will guarantee an additional $10 million in 2023.
That deal, Williams said, came with a typically Shanahanian message: “Hey, go get that sixth year.”