Trade for Bills: Mike Williams is on a big contract, but only 1.8 million of the deal is left guaranteed so the Bills are essentially getting Williams on a 1-year, 1.8 million dollar deal with “options” for 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 at 6.8 million, 7.2 million, 7.5 million, and 8.75 million respectively. He’s unlikely to be back with the team in 2015 at that salary as the Bills will likely cut him or force him to restructure his deal following this season.
Considering Williams has shown he can be a very solid receiver when he has a fire lit under him, it’s a worthwhile gamble with little downside and potentially high upside. Williams had strong years in 2010 (65/964/11) and 2012 (63/996/9), grading out well above average on Pro Football Focus in each season. However, in 2011, he had just 65 catches for 771 yards and 3 touchdowns, grading out well below average, and reportedly displaying a very poor work ethic. In 2013, he had 22 catches for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns in just 6 games before going down with injury.
After his injury, he reportedly incurred 200K in fines for a variety of activity detrimental to the team, including missing meetings. He has a history of this type of behavior, not just in 2011 and 2013, but dating back to his collegiate days at the Syracuse University, when he was kicked off the team, ironically by head coach Doug Marrone, who is now head coach of the Bills. Williams also has a myriad of minor off the field incidents over the past calendar year, which are concerning when you put everything together.
All of that makes up why he was traded to the Bills for a 6th round pick, but this could serve as the wake-up call he needs to continue alternating bad years with strong years. This move will allow the Bills to likely cut Steve Johnson and save 5.675 million dollars in cash and immediately 75K in cap space and a combined 5.675 million dollars in cap space over the next two seasons. They are likely getting a comparable player for about a third of the price. In that scenario, they’d go into 2014 with Mike Williams, Robert Woods, TJ Graham, and Marquise Goodwin as their top receivers with the option to add another receiver through the draft.
The only concern is that Williams has a good enough season that he tricks the Bills into keeping him for 2015 at 6.8 million and then he coasts again. There are also minor concerns about Williams polluting the locker room or eventually doing something bad enough that he gets suspended. It’s still a worthwhile gamble with high upside and high potential dividends at the price of a 6th round pick.
Trade for Buccaneers: I guess the Buccaneers were just done with Williams after everything. The new regime coming in under Lovie Smith seems to be instituting a no tolerance policy for this type of behavior. Cutting him wasn’t a good option as they’d have to pay him 1.8 million dollars for this season either way, so I guess credit them for getting out of that and getting a 6th round pick. However, I would have just kept him at that salary and dealt with him after the season. This could easily become a case of one team’s trash becoming another team’s treasure in the Bills’ favor.