by Mario "Game" Granata
Making moves is an integral part of the National Football League, where there are no teams standing still: you are either moving forward or falling behind. When the Buffalo Bills decided to trade a 6th round draft pick, for a wide receiver that was carrying some ‘baggage’ from Tampa Bay, many in the 716 area code were wondering if this was a step forward or a step back. The Buffalo Bills were able to get a solid #2 wide receiver, one that is much better than a 6th round pick, and as many coaches will tell you ‘you can’t have enough talent at the skill positions’. What does this ultimately mean for the Buffalo Bills? Will this ‘gamble’ pay off for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 1999?
Here are just a few reasons why this move should be viewed with some optimism as the Bills head into 2014:
Body of Work: Mike Williams, with the exception of this past season, has been a very reliable and productive player in the National Football League. Say what you will about his off the field antics, he averaged 64 receptions a year, for 991 yards, and 8 touchdowns in his first three seasons with the Buccaneers. A Tampa Bay team, that had Kellen Winslow Jr. as their leading receiver in Williams’ first
two seasons, so he knows what it’s like to be asked to play like a #1 wide out, even though, he is at best a #2. That shouldn’t be viewed as an insult to Williams. #2 receivers will often have to be accounted for in the passing game, and will thus help the #1 become more of a playmaker. Just check out Vincent Jackson in 2012. Mike Williams still maintained his numbers; consistency that Buffalo desperately needs.
The Clock is Ticking: Mike Williams, because of the off the field issues, is literally on his last legs in the NFL. Teams are not going to take a player anymore, if they continue to be a locker room distraction. Terrell Owens ran a sub-4.5 and he couldn’t even make the Seahawks roster last year. Davone Bess and Titus Young have had some off the field issues, and although they are both young players, will ultimately never play in the NFL again. With receivers coming out in a deep draft class, and a league that has shifted to be very ‘pass happy’, there are many receivers out there, who can fit the mold, that aren’t a headache for the organization. So, if Mike Williams continues to be a problem, even when he has come back to his hometown and can’t get it together, the Bills have a very low risk, high reward investment. The Bills are paying Williams 1.8 million for this season, and if it doesn’t work out, they can cut Williams in the offseason, saving nearly 6 million going into 2015.
History with Marrone: Although it is unclear to what Mike Williams will be asked to do here in Buffalo, but the fact that Doug Marrone and Williams have a history, should be viewed as a positive. He has coached him before, so Williams will have some sort of comfort level with Marrone, and Marrone has proven that
he is not afraid to cut bait when things don’t work out. Also, with the young receivers who were in this offense last year, and what Williams learned at Syracuse, the chemistry that needs to be developed with
EJ Manuel won’t (or shouldn’t) take as long as another player coming in fresh. There is always and
introduction and ‘feeling out’ process that comes with adding a new player (especially one that has played for another team for some time) but with the familiarity of Marrone and Williams, the learning curve won’t be as steep.
Look Out Stevie:
The one aspect of this trade, a question that I keep asking is “What does this mean for Stevie Johnson?”
Both players are very much alike. Both solid #2 receivers who in their career were asked to be #1s. Both are 6’2” 210 pounds, and while Johnson is better at getting off the line, Williams is a better downfield
blocker. The most glaring fact of this comparison is that Stevie Johnson is due to make 8.85 million in 2015 and 8.95 million in 2016. If the Bills decide to cut ties with Johnson in 2015, they will save 3.2 million against the cap, and if they wait to 2016, the will save 6.1 million. Conversely, the Mike Williams deal leaves the Bills with a lot of options. Williams is due to make 5.8 million in 2015 and 6.2 million in 2016. With the unrest that has been building here in Buffalo about the season that Stevie Johnson had last year, and if Mike Williams can come home and be the player that Marrone and Whaley expect him to be, they will have a tough, financial decision to make before the 2015 season.
All in all, the move to add Mike Williams should give Buffalo Bills fans some added security going into the 2014 season. The Mike Williams add has brought the magic number to 11. 11 receivers are currently on the Buffalo Bills roster, and with the experience that Mike Williams brings, at a very affordable price, that is also franchise friendly, there are only positives that should be taken from this. Hopefully with the family surroundings, fatherhood, and a reunion with a former coach, Mike Williams will have the stability needed to keep being a productive receiver for the Bills and in the community as a whole.