In July 2013, the Buccaneers rewarded receiver Mike Williams with a six-year contract extension worth $40.5MM. Now, less than a year later, his future with the team could be in jeopardy, due to an off-the-field life filled with partying, arrests, and other missteps, as detailed by Greg Auman and Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. The article paints a picture of a life filled with chaos, with Williams causing tens of thousands of dollars worth of property damage, angering his neighbors with noise violations, and throwing raucous parties, sometimes on nights before Tampa Bay was to play a game the next afternoon.
The Bucs have spent much of the past two seasons ridding themselves of players who caused such concerns. Cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Eric Wright, as well as running back LeGarrette Blount, have either been traded or released. And while those moves came under a regime headed by now-departed general manager Mark Dominik and coach Greg Schiano, new head coach Lovie Smith doesn’t take kindly to the type of behavior exemplified by Williams, either. “There’s a pattern here and it’s disturbing,” said Smith. “No one is bigger than the football team. He has to understand that.”
Smith continued: “Have I been disappointed in Mike Williams? Of course. There’s a standard. We’re just not going to put up with it, no matter who it is. You have to be good on the field and off the field. Simple as that. And if you’re not doing what you need to do one or the other, you have problems and that’s where Mike has to take care of a few things.”
If Williams can correct his errors off-the-field, Smith would surely love to reap the benefits of having a player of his caliber. Williams, before tearing his hamstring and missing most of the 2013 season, flourished between 2010-2012, averaging 64 receptions for 910 yards and eight touchdowns. Though his rapport with new quarterback Mike Glennon remains to be seen, adding Williams to an offensive core that includes receiver Vincent Jackson, running back Doug Martin (also returning from injury), tight end Tim Wright, and an elite offensive line would be a start to turning Tampa’s fortunes around.
Even if the Bucs wished to release Williams, two factors would impede that transaction: money and depth. Cutting Williams would result in a costly $6.4MM cap hit, likely too expensive for the team to bear. And besides Jackson, the Tampa wide receiver depth chart has few inspiring options, with players like Chris Owusu and Eric Page next in line.
But the man who would make such a decision doesn’t sound pleased. New general manager Jason Licht, when asked what Williams needs to learn from these incidents, had a terse response: “He has to learn not to make headlines off the field. Start there.”