Trent Williams’ contract may still toll by a full year

Tackle Trent Williams unexpectedly reported to Washington on Tuesday, presumably in order to ensure that he will get credit for the 2019 year of a contract that runs through 2020. There’s still a chance he won’t.

In the Joey Galloway grievance from 19 years ago, the Seahawks argued that if a player under contract holds out for even one regular-season game, his contract tolls for a full year. Galloway, who ultimately was on the roster for eight games in 1999, won the grievance.

The ruling has since been interpreted as giving players under contract the ability to be on the roster for only eight regular-season games and avoid a tolling of the contract. If a player is on the roster for fewer than eight regular-season games, the team would have a potentially stronger argument for tolling.

Williams rejoins Washington with eight games left in the regular season. If Washington takes advantage of the ability to use a roster exemption for Williams, he’ll end up with fewer than eight games on the active roster. That could prompt Washington to fully utilize the roster exemption (typically, teams can use it for up to three weeks), to take the position that his contract tolls, and to force him to fight for an expansion of the Galloway case to allow him to be on the roster for less than eight regular-season games.

It ultimately could be a losing argument for Washington, but there’s no downside to giving it a try. And there’s no reason to think that Washington would take an aggressive approach aimed at keeping Williams under contract for an extra year, since that would enhance his eventual trade value in the offseason.