While this year’s running back market did not produce a top-10 contract at the position, some interesting dominoes fell. Perhaps none more so than David Montgomery, who left the Bears to be the Lions’ Jamaal Williams replacement.
The Lions gave Montgomery a three-year, $18MM deal that includes $8.75MM fully guaranteed. The Bears wanted to retain their veteran starter, however, with the Chicago Sun-Times’ Patrick Finley indicating the team believed it made a competitive offer. It just was not enough to keep Montgomery in the Windy City, something GM Ryan Poles said he was interested in doing earlier this offseason.
Chicago’s offer did not include any guaranteed money beyond Year 1 of the deal, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune notes. Montgomery can collect $2.25MM in additional funds if he is on the Lions’ roster on Day 3 of the 2024 league year. Seeing as it would cost the Lions more than $6MM in dead money to cut Montgomery before that bonus date, it represents a good bet this will be at least a two-year partnership. Only Miles Sanders received more fully guaranteed money among running backs in free agency this year.
“I would just kind of sum it up by saying players do have a choice,’’ Poles said of Montgomery’s decision, via Finley. ‘‘I thought we communicated well. I thought we negotiated well. At the same time, you don’t always know what’s going on in the background. But I thought we did a good job. We were transparent, we were organized and it just — it didn’t happen.”
Montgomery’s $6MM AAV matches the deal Williams played on from 2021-22. Williams said (via NewOrleans.football’s Mike Triplett) the Lions’ offer was disrespectful, leading him to the Saints on a three-year accord worth $12MM ($8.15MM fully guaranteed). The Lions did not pivot to Montgomery, 25, until Williams, 27, rejected their offer. Lions GM Brad Holmes said conversations with Williams’ agent at the Combine led him to believe the parties were closing in on another agreement.
“From a budgeting and planning standpoint pre-free agency, we had an allotment of resources set aside, really for Jamaal,” Holmes said, via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett. “Didn’t really even really consider another running back higher than that amount of resources that we set aside for Jamaal. And business happens and that’s part of this business and it just didn’t work.
“We tried, but when the market crystallized and it got to a point where David was in play, kind of within the range of resources that we had set aside, then that’s when we went ahead and went forward with David, which we’re extremely excited about.”
The Lions likely offered Williams a deal with similar terms as Montgomery’s, Biggs adds, pointing to the league’s 2022 rushing touchdown leader slightly miscalculating his market. The ex-Packers draftee still landed on his feet with the Saints, though his AAV is down compared to his Lions contract. Williams will move into position as Alvin Kamara insurance. Kamara could face a six-game suspension due to his February 2022 battery arrest.
As both NFC North teams believed they were on track to retain their starting backs, Biggs adds the Vikings also pursued Montgomery. It is unclear if Minnesota made Montgomery an offer, but this interest adds another layer to what has become an intriguing divisional backfield outlook. Dalvin Cook‘s seat remains uncertain, and multiple teams viewed the perennial Pro Bowler as available ahead of free agency. A day Montgomery committed to the Lions, the Vikings gave longtime Cook backup Alexander Mattison a two-year, $7MM deal that comes nearly fully guaranteed.
A day after Mattison’s agreement, the Bears gave D’Onta Foreman a one-year deal worth just $2MM ($1MM guaranteed). Foreman will team with Khalil Herbert in Chicago, though Biggs suggests the Bears adding to their backfield in the draft should not be ruled out. This intra-divisional shakeup involved the upper echelon of free agent backs, as the second wave at the position — from the Dolphins’ duo to Samaje Perine to Devin Singletary to Damien Harris — did not eclipse $3MM guaranteed. It will be interesting to see how the Bears and Lions fare with reshaped backfields.
8 comments on “Bears, Vikings Pursued David Montgomery; Lions Pivoted After Jamaal Williams Rejected Offer”
I find it funny how Jamaal called the Lions offer disrespectful which reports say it was for $5.5 million per year and he only got 4 from New Orleans. He had a heck of a year with 17 TD’s but many of those were inside the 5 yard line and behind one of the top O-Line’s. Montgomery is a clear upgrade but I’m sure all Lions fans will miss Jamaal. He wears his heart on his sleeve.
He was great and did an excellent job hitting the holes the O line created. Sounds simple but his predecessors weren’t nearly as proficient. Wasn’t as great getting yards after first contact. Montgomery seems to excel at that so he should be a good addition. I’m also confused with Jamaal’s complaint about a disrespectful offer when he signed for what seems like less money. Maybe NO offered a longer term with a higher guarantee?
He was jaded after being told no to his contract demands, and instead of being an adult and remembering it’s a business, he decided to lash out in an attempt to save face, make himself look like a pariah and the Lions like jerks.
Jamaal was an awesome Lion and he helped reverse the culture here in just two years. I wish him the best in New Orleans.
Montgomery really is a clear upgrade though. The Lions O-line makes short-yardage situations a lot easier, and Jamaal didn’t disappoint in that regard, with 17 TDs. But apart from that, Montgomery will be better at piling up more yards after contact plus he’s a better blocker and pass-catcher out of the backfield. These are important aspects of a running game, and they’ll help open the offense up even more.
I’m excited for the Lions. I hope the Bears and the Vikings flop. Jamaal I hope you score a ton of TDs as a Saint but not when you’re playing against the Lions.
Loved Jamaal a ton and part of my wishes he came back. But 15 of those 17 TDs came inside the 5 yard line with huge holes to run through, so that is quite a huge part of his success. Doesn’t hurt running behind guys like Sewell, Decker, Ragnow and company. Montgomery has never ran behind an O-line like this, and I think you’ll see him have a monster year!
Williams played himself.
Jamaal Williams had a notable year in Detroit with all those short touchdowns, but his overall body of work defines him as just an average running back. New Orleans is a slowly sinking ship, thus he should’ve stayed in Detroit if he wanted a chance to make the playoffs.
He overplayed his hand! He’s lucky to get that contract from the Saints. Too bad because he was loved here and the contract offer was anything but disrespectful. He should have signed it & went on with his offseason. Now he will regret his decision as he sees Montgomery have a career year behind that awesome OL!