Williams, who played this season on the team’s fifth-year option, will go into free agency in March in good position to command a big salary after starting 58 of a possible 64 games since losing his entire rookie season due to a labrum injury in OTAs.
“I think it’s been good,” Williams said of his transition to right tackle. “I’ve enjoyed it. You know, I’ve done a good job. So, it’s just it’s been, you know, not the result we wanted from a team perspective. But, yeah, it’s a tough year for the team.”
Sunday’s season finale against Cleveland could be Williams’ last in a Bengals uniform. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent March 11, but right now, he’s not thinking about that — or at least he’s not willing to talk about it yet.
“I’m not really thinking about it too much,” Williams said. “We still have a big game against a divisional opponent this week, and we want to end on a high note. Like I said, it wasn’t season that we wanted, but we still have a chance to end on a positive note and get a divisional win and finish with a winning record.”
Asked if he wanted to stay in Cincinnati, Williams reiterated he didn’t want to talk about the future or comment on that.
Pressed further about how much his position will dictate where he wants to go in free agency, Williams again said he wanted to keep his focus on Sunday’s game but noted he is open to playing either side moving forward. Williams still loves left tackle, and surely if an opportunity to return to that position opened up for him, he would take it; however, being able to play both sides should present more options in the future.
“I do like to think that I added some versatility to my repertoire, and I think that’s only good,” Williams said. “In the NFL, the more positions you can play the more valuable you are.”
Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said he didn’t see a drop-off in the transition from left to right tackle, and Williams “plays them equally well” and could be a bonafide starter at either tackle.
Callahan was especially complimentary of how Williams handled that situation. After the Bengals didn’t grant his trade request, Williams reported to the mandatory portion of the team’s offseason workout program with a positive attitude about moving forward and has never looked back.
“I’ve always thought Jonah has been a good player for us, so I don’t think that he proved anything that I didn’t know about him, but I will say the way that he handled it was incredibly impressive,” Callahan said. “Obviously not something you want to do. You’re a left tackle, you want to be a left tackle and he gets moved over and just like anybody would anticipate that not being something they wanted to hear or do, but man, … I thought that was one of the more oppressive handling of a difficult situation from a player that I’ve seen in a long time where he just buckled down and said, all right, this is what’s going to happen and I’m going to play really well. And I think he has.
“So, what that means for his future here, his future, anywhere else, he’s done well for himself and in turn he’s done well for us. And so super appreciative of how he went about his business this year and I think it is going to pay off for him.”
Williams was appreciative of Callahan’s comments on him being equally strong at both positions because that’s what he came into the season to do was to prove he could be versatile. He’s started every game this season – and 48 straight, excluding the 2021 regular-season finale when starters rested, since finishing the 2020 campaign on injured reserve.
The former Alabama left tackle said he didn’t consider sitting this one out, despite the team already being out of playoff contention. Like many of his teammates and coaches have said, there is still plenty to play for Sunday.
“I mean, there’s a lot of pride in the city, and this is a rivalry game, a divisional game, it’s the battle for Ohio,” Williams said. “And, you know, unfortunately, it doesn’t mean as much right now as we wanted to in terms of playoffs and all that stuff. But it’s still important to us as a team and important to the people, the city and the state. So, you know, we’re gonna go out there and put out our best effort and try to get a win.”
Browns at Bengals, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7