Can the Buccaneers Afford to Release WR Mike Williams?

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Can the Buccaneers Afford to Release WR Mike Williams?
Brian Blanco/Associated Press

Bad press is rarely a good thing in the NFL, and it’s especially bad when a player is trying to impress a new head coach and general manager. That’s why Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Williams may rue the day he was stabbed in the leg by his brother on March 24, as reported by ESPN.

Forgetting the sheer pain of the incident, Williams’ injury, and the repercussions surrounding it, may end up costing the wide receiver his job. It turns out that raucous parties and police showing up at Williams’ house have been the norm of late, according to Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times:

While renting a 5,400-square-foot home in Lutz, Williams' lifestyle resulted in at least five calls to 911 in a four-month stretch last year. He racked up nearly $50,000 in damages to the house.

Neighbors told stories about party-goers showing up in stretch limos at 4 in the morning and cars tearing up yards and demolishing sprinkler heads, not to mention mattresses found on the front lawn, as if the whole thing was a deleted scene from Project X.

While loud parties and general disregard for anyone else in the neighborhood but himself might not be a good enough reason for a franchise to part ways with a member of the team who’s valued on the field, Williams’ activities while in the privacy (or lack thereof) of his own home aren’t his only transgressions.

Williams has also been ticketed 16 times while driving since 2010, according to Jones.

Apparently, Williams has no concern for the peace and well-being of his neighborhood, and no concern for the public or the rules of the road when he’s in a motor vehicle. Williams is that guy who moves in and quickly destroys property value. He’s the guy that makes you pull over to the side of the road while driving and call 911.

Will he be the guy who makes Lovie Smith and Jason Licht hand out a pink slip?

On Wednesday, two days after the news broke, Smith said he wanted to speak with Williams before he passed judgment. He hit both sides of the proverbial coin when speaking at the NFL owners meeting in Orlando, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

Williams could get the benefit of the doubt because he was on the receiving end of the knife. Or, his past misdeeds may return to haunt him:

I don't believe a guy should get a death sentence on one infraction. I made the statement I'm not going to kick someone off the team based on being a victim, from what I was initially told (Williams was).

I look for a pattern. If a player shows a pattern of behavior that we don't feel like we want displayed by our (team), then more drastic measures come in to play. I'm not to that point right now.

Smith’s also going to have to look at Williams’ numbers.

Williams caught 22 passes last season for 216 yards, but he only played in six games because of a torn hamstring. Those numbers put him on pace to have caught 58 passes had he played in 16 games (he averaged 64.3 catches per season from 2010-2012), but only for 516 yards, well below his three-year average of 910.3 prior to 2013.

Mike Williams: 2010-2013
Season G/GS Rec. Rec/16 Yards Yards/16 TD
2010 16/16 65 4.06 964 60.25 11
2011 16/16 65 4.06 771 48.19 3
2012 16/16 63 3.94 996 62.25 9
2013 6/5 22 3.66 216 36.00 2

Pro-Football-Reference.com

Williams has always had trouble eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark receiving, but he’s always been perceived as a solid No. 2 receiver, even in 2010 and 2011 when he was Tampa Bay’s No. 1 option. As it stands right now, he’s still the No. 2 behind Vincent Jackson, and the Bucs don’t have a viable replacement.

The Bucs just signed wide receiver Louis Murphy, but he’s never caught more than 41 passes in a season, and he was held to 25 two years ago with the Carolina Panthers. If Murphy couldn’t flourish in a Carolina offense that was desperate for a No. 2 (or No. 3) option, he’s likely not going to tear it up in Tampa.

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Murphy played in 14 games last season for the New York Giants and caught just six passes. At best, Murphy will head into training camp as Tampa Bay’s No. 3 receiver.

That leaves Williams at No. 2, and it leaves the Bucs looking at the draft if they want to push him any lower on the depth chart.

With the seventh overall pick in the draft, Tampa Bay could select a receiver. Clemson’s Sammy Watkins may even be there. Even if the Bucs go that route in the draft, any rookie who enters camp with this team will battle with Williams for the No. 2 spot, with the loser moving to No. 3.

With Williams’ past out in the open for everyone to see, it may seem like he’s an incorrigible malcontent. That may even be true. But it’s not enough to get Williams released from a team that’s in need of capable wide receivers.

Williams was in court Thursday and was approved for a misdemeanor intervention program. If he passes the program, he may get through this debacle unscathed, according to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times:

Unless something criminal comes out that hasn’t been shared publicly yet, or the team uncovers more black marks in Williams’ past, it’s highly unlikely the Bucs will release the receiver. Tampa Bay finished dead last in the NFL last season with only 176.3 passing yards per game.

To get the Bucs’ offense moving forward in the new Smith era of football in Tampa Bay, look for Williams to receive some sort of behavior modification program from the team similar to the one he got from the courts Thursday.

Williams is too valuable to release, even if he probably should be sent packing.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.

Knox Bardeen is the NFC South Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and the author of “100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die.” Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.

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