The Buffalo Bills' brief search for help at wide receiver has taken an interesting turn.
The Bills are already intimately familiar with Williams. Doug Marrone was Williams' coach at Syracuse before the receiver left in controversial fashion during the 2009 season. Williams was involved in a car crash along with several of his Syracuse teammates. According to Syracuse.com, the car crash came after he had already been punished for a violation earlier in the season and after being suspended for the entire 2008 campaign for cheating on a test.
However, Marrone sounds willing to give Williams a clean slate now that he is in Buffalo, according to Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com:
'With regard to our time at Syracuse, I feel that is in the past for both of us,' said Marrone. 'Mike has an opportunity to get a fresh start to his career here in his hometown and regain his form as a productive player in the National Football League. We look forward to getting Mike into the facility and start our work preparing for the 2014 season once the players are free to report on April 22.'
Williams is not the first troubled receiver the Bills have considered adding this offseason. They were reportedly interested in former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson after he was released, and they also had reported interest in former Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt.
Williams has been productive over his career, and has logged at least 60 receptions in each of his first three years in the league. He was on pace to put up the lowest numbers of his career while playing just six games due to injury.
Adding Williams to the likes of Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and T.J. Graham gives the Bills a wide range of receiver prototypes. Williams is not a prototype boundary receiver, although his 6'2", 204-pound frame seems to suggest he could play on the outside if needed.
Whatever he is asked to do, he had better excel at it if he wants to be with the Bills for more than one year.
On the surface, it looks like Williams will be a "rental" for the Bills. He is due just $1.8 million on the salary cap in 2014, but his cap number shoots to $6.8 million in 2015. If the Bills want to release him after this season, they will only get back $1.6 million in cap space, with the remaining $5.2 million left over in dead money.
From that perspective, it's not likely the Bills would keep both Williams and Stevie Johnson in the fold in 2015 on their current contracts. Johnson's contract counts for $8.85 million in cap space for the 2015 season, so if the Bills keep both Johnson and Williams on the roster next year, the two will combine for $15.65 million in cap space.
One or both of them will have to restructure their contracts, and make no mistake, Johnson is on notice to produce better numbers than his 2013 season, in which he had his lowest marks in receptions, yards, yards per reception and touchdowns since 2009.
|Stevie Johnson since breakout year (2010)|
In a best-case scenario, Williams and Johnson could potentially duel it out for the right to be Buffalo's No. 1 receiver for the future.
The first step in that process for Williams is to keep himself out of trouble. His past transgressions have been forgiven now that he's in Buffalo, but unless he stays out of trouble off the field and is a productive player on the field, the Bills' search for another receiver has not ended just yet.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases. All salary-cap and contract information provided by Spotrac.