While Williams had indicated to people that he would never return to the Redskins, team president Bruce Allen took the stand that an accumulation of fines and lost paychecks would eventually drive Williams back. On several occasions in the past few months, Allen and former coach Jay Gruden said they expected Williams to return to the team at some point this season.
But ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline, and with its record at 1-7, the team relented on its season-long stance that it would not trade Williams, according to multiple people with knowledge of the Redskins’ thinking. There remained skepticism around the league that a team would be willing to meet Washington’s substantial asking price, with one person describing the Redskins as looking for a “blockbuster” deal.
The Cleveland Browns pursued Williams heavily in the lead-up to the 4 p.m. deadline, with General Manager John Dorsey having previously acknowledged his interest in Williams. But the Browns were wary of surrendering the first-round draft pick — or more — that it probably would have taken to convince the Redskins to trade Williams, according to one person with knowledge of the deliberations.
The two sides couldn’t come to an agreement as the final seconds of the deadline counted down, and word came out minutes later that Williams was coming back to the team.
Williams has spent his entire career with Washington after being drafted with the fourth pick in 2010 out of Oklahoma. He has been perhaps the team’s best offensive player during that period, earning seven trips to the Pro Bowl.
The Redskins have struggled mightily on offense without him this season. Their averages of 12.4 points and 261.1 yards both rank 30th in the NFL, and they have turned the ball over 14 times in eight games. Gruden was fired after just five games, and interim head coach Bill Callahan has made the running game a priority since taking over. Veteran Donald Penn, signed during training camp, has been starting in Williams’s place.
It is not yet clear whether Williams will be on the team’s active roster for Sunday’s game at the Buffalo Bills.
By reporting to the team, Williams is credited with a year toward his free agent status, meaning he will not be tied to the Redskins for an additional year beyond the end of the 2020 season, which is when his contract ends and he will be eligible for unrestricted free agency. Williams missed eight weeks and will make a little more than $5.7 million in salary for the remainder of this season, or nine-seventeenths of his full-season salary of $10.85 million. His contract also contains bonuses of $15,625 per game. He has a $12.5 million salary for 2020.
Williams’s holdout could cost him a substantial portion of his signing bonus, lost salary and bonus money and fines imposed by the Redskins. NFL teams sometimes reach settlements with players when they end holdouts. It was not immediately clear whether the Redskins and Williams made any such arrangements.
While Williams’s standoff with the team was partly because of his health scare and broader concerns with the team’s medical staff, it was just one of several things that had Williams frustrated, two people with knowledge of Williams’s thinking said this summer. That led Williams to ask the team for either a trade or a new contract that would provide him with better financial security. The Redskins declined both requests, and Williams’s holdout began.
Williams has not spoken publicly about the reasons for his holdout.
The Redskins did not make any trades ahead of Tuesday’s deadline despite having conversations with other teams. A person with knowledge of the situation said the Redskins did get one offer for running back Adrian Peterson that they declined. Cornerback Josh Norman was a frequent subject of trade speculation, but he also remains with the team.