Aaron Williams attempted to return to the NFL in 2017, working out with three teams, but none ended up signing him. A six-year safety with the Bills, Williams has not played in a game since midway through the 2016 season.
Williams details the 2015 and ’16 neck injuries that ended his run in Buffalo and describes quality workouts with the Texans, Jaguars and Chiefs in 2017. However, Williams writes those teams informed him they wouldn’t offer a contract because of concerns regarding his history with neck issues and concussions.
The former second-round pick wrote that he set a New Year’s Day 2018 deadline for himself, and if he wasn’t on a team by then, he’d retire. That’s come to fruition.
Buffalo signed Williams to an extension, but after he’d started 38 games from 2012-14, the Texas product only appeared in 10 games during his final two seasons. He ended up starting in 52 of the 59 games he played, lining up at both cornerback and safety, and played only for the Bills during his six-season run.
September 13th, 2017 at 9:13am CST by Zachary Links
With star Eric Berrydone for the season, the Chiefs are looking into some reinforcements at safety. With that in mind, Kansas City auditioned former Buffalo safety Aaron Williams on Tuesday, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter link) hears.
Williams was cut loose by the Bills around the start of free agency following a season in which he suffered a painful neck injury. He met with the Jaguars in May and the Texans in June, but things have been quiet for him over the last few months. The good news is that Williams was said to be fully healthy when auditioning for Houston three months ago.
Williams, 27, has been a starter for the majority of his NFL career, posting seven interceptions and 183 tackles through 59 total games. His health limited him to only ten games from 2015-16, however.
For now, it looks like Daniel Sorensen could be in line to start with Berry out for the year.
Second-round signal-caller DeShone Kizer is in the mold of Super Bowl-winning division rivals Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) and Joe Flacco (Ravens), according to Browns quarterbacks coach David Lee, but it doesn’t sound as if he’ll see the field for a while. “He’s got a great future,” Lee told reporters, including Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com. “He’s just a long way from being ready. He’s not ready, but he’s climbing on it, and he’s making progress.”
Kizer, the 52nd overall pick from Notre Dame, is competing against Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler to open the season as the Browns’ starter. Osweiler has impressed Cleveland’s coaches since coming over in March in a surprising trade with Houston, and the fact that he’s the most experienced and accomplished of the Browns’ QBs matters to Lee. “You can say what you want, but the guy in the last two years has taken two different teams [Texans and Denver Broncos] to the playoffs, and there’s nobody else in that room that can say that,” Lee pointed out. “Plus, this is his sixth year of experience. [The other guys have] got [little or] no experience. … So he’s the senior citizen. He looks like a guy who’s played before. He’s great at the line of scrimmage. He’s great in the huddle, I mean calming effect. Is he the quarterback? We don’t have one yet, but he’s in the mix for sure.”
The Texans worked out safety Jaiquawn Jarrett on Monday, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Jarrett, a former second-round pick, spent the first two seasons of his career with the Eagles before joining the Jets from 2013-15. He didn’t appear in the NFL in 2016. A veteran of 47 career games, Jarrett boasts nine starts through five pro seasons. Houston has no plans to sign either Jarrett or fellow defensive back Aaron Williams, whom the Texans hosted earlier this week, as Wilson writes in a full article.
Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey underwent core muscle surgery Thursday, per NFL.com’s Mike Garafalo, who adds that he should be ready for the regular season (Twitter link). Ramsey also dealt with a notable injury last spring, a torn meniscus that required surgery and kept him out of organized team activities and minicamp, but still went on to post an excellent rookie season. Last year’s fifth overall pick, Ramsey started all 16 of the Jags’ games, intercepted two passes (one of which he returned for a touchdown) and ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 21st-best corner.
Josh McCown has a smaller-than-anticipated lead over Christian Hackenberg as the Jets’ training camp quarterback battle approaches, writes Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. McCown wasn’t all that sharp in minicamp, whereas Hackenberg exceeded expectations, per Cimini, who notes that Bryce Petty is a clear third in the race. The Jets invested a second-rounder in Hackenberg only a year ago, but it seems the ex-Penn State Nittany Lion is widely regarded as a lost cause after he couldn’t crack the lineup last season for a club whose QB play was among the worst in the league. But Hackenberg should get on the field sometime this year for a team that’s now in a full-scale rebuild.
Williams was cut loose by Buffalo around the start of free agency following a season in which he suffered a painful neck injury. Since then, he has had only one visit – his May 3 powwow with the Jaguars. At this point, Wilson hears that Williams is fully healthy, so it might not take long for a deal to materialize if Houston likes what it sees.
Williams has only played in ten games total over the last two seasons thanks to neck issues. However, he has been a starter for the bulk of his career and he has seven interceptions to his credit in the NFL. The Texans are thin at the safety position, so it makes sense for them to at least kick the tires on Williams.
For Williams, a deal with the Texans would represent a homecoming. Williams played his high school ball at McNeil in Austin and went to college at the University of Texas.
Williams, 27, has suffered severe neck injuries in each of the past two seasons, and despite the inherent risk in continuing his career, Williams has no plans to retire at this time. A six-year NFL veteran, Williams has been a starter for the majority of his NFL tenure, posting seven interceptions and 183 tackles through 59 total games. Health concerns have only allowed him to play in 10 contests from 2015-16, however.
In Jacksonville, Williams would be a clear-cut reserve, as the Jaguars have invested heavily in the safety position during the past two offseasons. Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church are each in the midst of multi-year contracts, so Williams wouldn’t have a shot at a starting job. However, he’d give the Jaguars high-level depth, and could also contribute on special teams and in three-safety looks.
The initial wave of NFL free agency is now complete, and while many of the league’s top available players are now off the board, there are still plenty of quality options still on the open market.
Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each defensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.
Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.
We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.
Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by defensive position for 2017:
The pass rushing market has been completely depleted during the first week of free agency, as 14 of our original top 15 edge players have now been franchised, signed, or, in the case of DeMarcus Ware, retired. As such, a 37-year-old with 15 NFL seasons under his belt is now the best pass rusher on the market. Dwight Freeney played on roughly a third of the Falcons’ defensive snaps in 2016, and posted three sacks and 18 hurries. Capable of playing in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, Freeney can still help out a club on the cheap.
Three players on this list — Elvis Dumervil, Connor Barwin, and Eugene Sims — were released by their respective clubs last week, meaning they won’t count against the compensatory formula if and when they’re signed. Dumervil, now 33, was hampered by injuries last season but still earned strong pass-rushing marks from Pro Football Focus. Barwin, meanwhile, wasn’t a good fit in Jim Schwartz‘s 4-3 defense, but he should flourish if he signs with a team running a 3-4 look. So far, he’s met with the Bengals (who use a 4-3) and Rams (3-4).
Although top-flight players such as Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams have already been signed, the crop of interior defenders remains strong at the top. The buzz around Johnathan Hankins has been virtually non-existent, as the only club that’s been even tangentially linked to the 25-year-old is the Redskins. He’s one of the youngest free agents on the market, and therefore is probably looking for a massive payday. But the lack of interest around Hankins may be an indication that he’s simply asking for too much money.
The same issue could be surrounding Dontari Poe, although he’s not wanting for meetings around the league. He’s visited with the Colts, Falcons, Jaguars, and Dolphins, while the 49ers and Raiders also reportedly have some level of interest. Clubs may have concerns about Poe’s lingering back issues, and he might have to accept a one-year deal in order to prove he’s healthy and willing to provide full effort.
While players at other defensive positions have flown off the board, there’s been almost no movement among off-ball linebackers. Only five of PFR’s original top-15 free agent linebackers have signed new contracts, a group that includes Dont’a Hightower, our previous No. 1 ‘backer who re-signed with the Patriots today. Zach Brown, who now holds that honor, broke out in his fifth NFL campaign and played especially well in coverage, a skill that should lead to a handsome reward. Brown, 27, met with the Raiders today, while the Dolphins also hope to schedule a visit.
The Bengals, specifically, are in the linebackermarket, as they’ve met with both Kevin Minter and Keenan Robinson in recent days. But the rest of the players on this list aren’t drawing much interest as of yet, a fact that speaks to the devaluation of the linebacker position. Teams will pay up for a three-down linebacker like Hightower, but if a player can be formation-ed off the field, he’s not going to land a hefty deal.
One linebacker who did prove he could stay on the field on third down was Perry Riley, who played 370 coverage snaps for the Raiders last season. Riley is still only 28 years old, but posted awful marks from Pro Football Focus during his previous campaigns with Washington. Whether it was Oakland’s scheme (including its talented pass rushers) that allowed Riley to flourish, or a true breakout coming in the middle of a career, Riley could help a number of clubs. The Raiders are reportedly working to bring him back.
The top two corners still on the open market are both former Cowboys, and Brandon Carr looks like the surer bet to return to Dallas at this point. Morris Claiborne, meanwhile, has drawn interest from the Ravens, and most opposing clubs believe he’ll end up signing with Baltimore. Clairborne, 27, appeared to be a prime overpay candidate heading into the offseason, but if the Ravens can land him on a short-term deal, they’d be making a wise investment.
Now that all charges have been dropped against Darrelle Revis, he’ll make for an interesting test case in free agency. Clearly, Revis is not the shutdown corner he once was, and may even be mulling a move to safety as he closes his career. But clubs in the market for secondary help could do worse than Revis, and he should be on a roster when the regular season rolls around.
Most of the safeties on this list are in-the-box types — that’s thanks to the fact that center field-esque safeties are more rare and thus more expensive. Recently-released veterans such as Jairus Byrd, Lardarius Webb, and Corey Graham, however, offer coverage ability and would make for decent signings on short pacts. T.J. McDonald and Bradley McDougald, on other hand, are big hitters that will patrol near the line of scrimmage. McDougald, specifically, will take a visit with the Seahawks this week.
Chris Prosinski is just a special teamer, but he’s a great special teamer. While he only played 173 defensive snaps in 2016, he saw time on more than 80% of the Bears’ special teams plays, and was listed as one of the season’s best special teams players by Gordon McGuinness of Pro Football Focus. Football Outsiders ranked the Cardinals, Jets, and Texans as the bottom-three teams in special teams DVOA, and any of those clubs would benefit from adding Prosinski.
Demand is not high for placekickers at the moment, as only the Giants and Bengals stand out as clubs that immediately need a kicker. Injuries and ineffectiveness are sure to strike the position, however, at which point the specialists on this list will surely receive calls. Dan Carpenter and Mike Nugent missed a combined 11 extra points in 2016, and given that he topped both Carpenter and Nugent in field goal percentage, Nick Folk should be the first kicker on clubs’ emergency list.
March 10th, 2017 at 10:09pm CST by Dallas Robinson
The Browns are reportedly trying to tradeBrock Osweiler after acquiring him (and more specifically, his contract) from the Texans yesterday, and while Cleveland might be willing to pay Osweiler’s deal down to $8MM or so, some executives don’t think the Browns will find a taker. “Get the [expletive] out of here,” said one personnel man, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. Another evaluator: “No one will do their new trade … but I don’t blame them for trying.”
Here’s more from around the league:
Free agent safety Tony Jefferson reportedly turned down a better proposal from the Browns before signing with the Ravens, and Jefferson himself says Cleveland $1.5MM more than Baltimore, per Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link), Jefferson claims the Jets offered him the same overage, although Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News disputes that assertion (Twitter link).
Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks saw $4.35MM of his $4.85MM 2017 base salary fully guarantee today, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com. Kendricks has long been the subject of trade rumors, and the base salary guarantee could impact any such discussions. Unlike signing bonus money, which accelerates onto the original team’s cap in the event of a trade, guaranteed base salaries stay with the player and carry over to the acquring club.
Both linebacker DeAndre Levy (Lions) and safety Aaron Williams (Bills) were designated as post-June 1 releases, according to Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com and Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Those decisions will save Detroit and Buffalo some cap space the short term, but both teams will see dead money incur on their 2018 books.
The Bills are set to release Aaron Williams after six seasons, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. This comes a few months after the safety’s season ended due to a neck injury.
This move stands to cost the Bills nearly $5MM in dead money since Williams has two years and some guaranteed money left on the four-year contract he signed to stay in Buffalo. The team will save just $1.775MM by making this move, perhaps illustrating the franchise’s feeling about future Williams contributions. The Bills may designate Williams as a post-June 1 cut to split up the dead money hits. Said move would allow them to save $4.2MM in 2017, but the extra cash wouldn’t be available until June begins.
Williams has incurred consistent neck scares during his career, seeing this type of injury sideline him for most of the 2015 season as well. He played in just 10 games in 2015-16 combined and now faces questions about his future. The 26-year-old Williams started 52 games for the Bills after coming to Buffalo as a second-round pick in 2011.
It sounds like Texans head coach BillO’Brienwill return to the organization next season, but will he opt for the same starting quarterback? O’Brien wouldn’t commit when asked if he was going to stick with quarterback Brock Osweiler in 2017.
“Before I talk about those types of things, I have to evaluate it myself,” O’Brien told ESPN.com’s Sarah Barshop. “I’ve got to talk to our coaching staff, get their input, personnel people, get their input. So I wouldn’t be a good head coach if I stood up here and said, this is what I’m planning to do. The game is less than 48 hours ago. We’re going to evaluate everything.”
Osweiler finished his first season in Houston with 2,957 yards, 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. It seems like offensive coordinator George Godsey may have earned the brunt of the blame for the team’s offensive woes, as the coach and the organization parted ways earlier today.
Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFL…
Mike Klis of 9News in Denver reports (via Twitter) that the Broncos are set to interview two coaches for their special teams coordinator vacancy: RichardHightower and GregMcMahon. Hightower joined the Bears last offseason as their assistant special teams coach, and he previously spent time coaching the 49ers, Browns, and Redskins. McMahon served as the Saints special teams coordinator from 2008 through 2017. The longtime coach was let go by the organization in early January.
The Raiders have promoted midwest scout TreyScott to the position of Assistant Director of Player Personnel, reports Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. Scott has spent the past four seasons with the organization, and he previously spent time working with the Redskins.
The Cowboysannounced the signing of 12 players today, but the team isn’t done making moves. ESPN.com’s Todd Archer tweets that the team is still trying to finalize deals with practice squad players RicoGathers and AndyJones. Gathers, a tight end, was a sixth-round pick in this past year’s draft. Jones, a former undrafted free agent, spent much of the season on the Cowboys practice squad.
Bills safety Aaron Williams has dealt with mulitple neck injuries, but his dad told John Wawrow of the Associated Press that the former second-rounder intends to keep playing. “He’s leaning toward coming back,” Anthony Williams said. “We’ll take it slow and go from there.” The 26-year-old has been productive when he’s been on the field, but he’s been limited to only 10 games over the past two seasons.
Williams was on the receiving end of a vicious tackle Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry recently, leaving him with a neck injury. According to Williams’ father, the defensive back may consider retirement in the offseason since this is his second neck injury in the last two seasons.
Williams, 26, has been a starter for the majority of his career in Buffalo, posting seven interceptions and 183 tackles through 59 games. Having agreed to an extension in 2014, Williams is signed through the 2018 campaign, with cap hits north of $6MM in each of the next two seasons. Buffalo can use options like Robert Blanton, Duke Williams, and Jonathan Meeks to fill in at safety, so they won’t necessarily have to add a defensive back this week.