The 2016 fifth-round pick rushed for 94 yards on 27 carries last season, although the departure of Mike Gillislee opened things up for him to play more behind starter LeSean McCoy. It's clear the Bills have decided to go in a different direction.
The transaction was met with plenty of surprise:
Josh Norris @JoshNorris
WWWWWhatttttt? Jonathan Williams had an awesome preseason. https://t.co/m1Ue5QJmKt2017-9-3 17:42:33
Ryan Talbot @RyanTalbotBills
According to @RapSheet, the Jonathan Williams release is simply a surprise move. No injury, no suspension coming. Seemed like clear No. 2.2017-9-3 17:51:40
Joe Buscaglia @JoeBuscaglia
Jonathan Williams was playing a lot in the preseason finale. It made you wonder why. Now, Mike Tolbert is your new main backup RB. #Bills2017-9-3 17:42:49
With the Bills also cutting running back Jordan Johnson, Joe Banyard becomes the next man up on the depth chart, while fullback Mike Tolbert should also get carries. Veteran Taiwan Jones—who also has experience playing special teams—remains on the roster as well, although the organization could look to add a running back from the recently expanded free-agent pool.
Williams had impressed when given the opportunity this preseason, rushing for 121 yards on 21 carries, good for 5.8 yards per attempt. He also added a touchdown in Week 4 against the Detroit Lions.
Unfortunately, a knee injury kept him out of the third preseason game, which is usually considered a dress rehearsal for the regular season. This was apparently enough for Banyard to pass him on the depth chart while making Williams expendable.
Having rushed for 1,190 yards in 2014 for Arkansas, the 23-year-old still has plenty of upside. This could allow him an opportunity in another location at some point this season.