Kevin Williams

Kevin Williams To Retire

Longtime standout defensive tackle Kevin Williams has signed a one-day contract with the Vikings and will officially retire as a member of the organization Thursday, Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star Tribune was among those to report.

Williams, 35, spent the vast majority of his career in Minnesota, which selected him ninth overall in the 2003 draft. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy stayed with the Vikings through the 2013 season and racked up six Pro Bowl bids, five first-team All-Pro selections and 60 sacks with the club.

“I had a great time with the Vikings and appreciate them giving me a chance,” Williams said in a statement. “They drafted a small town kid from Arkansas and the organization, the city, the whole state really, helped raise me into a man. I appreciate them for that and look forward to coming back and doing some things with the team.”

[RELATED: Vikings’ Phil Loadholt retires]

After departing Minnesota, Williams played two more seasons – one in Seattle and another in New Orleans. Williams was solid depth for the 2014-15 NFC champion Seahawks, totaling 30 tackles and three sacks in 16 regular-season games (eight starts). He once again played every game last year, this time starting 14 and amassing 32 tackles and a pair of forced fumbles for the Saints, though he failed to record a sack for the only time in his career. Still, Williams’ work in his final campaign earned him a quality ranking at Pro Football Focus (subscription required), which placed him 33rd among 123 qualifying interior defenders.

As a free agent, Williams perhaps could’ve caught on with another club looking for D-line depth, but he’ll instead walk away after 13 NFL seasons. In regards to Williams’ exit, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said, “Kevin Williams was an established team leader when we bought the Vikings and his presence was crucial to our success. His consistency and durability makes him a Viking for the ages. We wish Kevin and his family all the best as they enjoy retirement.”

Williams appeared in 203 of a possible 208 regular-season games and logged 193 starts with 525 tackles, 63 sacks and nine forced fumbles. PFR wishes him the best in his retirement.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Best Available NFL Free Agents: Defense

The most high-profile free agent signings occurred more than two months ago, but as we near June there are still talented NFL free agents available on the open market. Most of these players (with a few exceptions) won’t command much guaranteed money, and given that we’ve passed the May 12 deadline, none will factor into the compensatory draft pick formula. After examining the offensive side of the ball yesterday, let’s take a look at the defensive players who will try to find a home as training camp approaches…Donte Whitner (Veritcal)

1. Donte Whitner, S: Despite being released by the Browns last month, Whitner is still an excellent player, having graded as the league’s No. 24 safety among 89 qualifiers in 2015, per Pro Football Focus. Remarkably durable (he’s missed only three games in the past six years), Whitner visited with the Rams in early April, and is reportedly still on Los Angeles’ radar. Elsewhere, both the Chargers and the Cowboys could make sense as potential landing spots if San Diego and Dallas want to upgrade on Jahleel Addae and Barry Church, respectively.

2. Leon Hall, CB: Hall hasn’t lacked suitors this offseason, as the Cowboys, Cardinals, Giants, and Falcons have all shown varying levels of interest in the 31-year-old cornerback over the past several months. He’s not the boundary defender that he used to be, but Hall is a productive slot corner, which essentially makes him a starter in today’s NFL. Health questions have nagged Hall throughout his entire career, and an offseason back procedure won’t quiet those concerns, but the former Bengal figures to find a new home sooner rather than later.

3. Greg Hardy, DE: Clearly the best defender on this list in terms of pure talent, Hardy’s off-the-field issues don’t need to be rehashed here. The 27-year-old edge rusher and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, are apparently lobbying NFL clubs for an opportunity, detailing the steps Hardy has taken to correct his pattern of behavior. However, it doesn’t appear as though many teams are convinced Hardy has changed his tune, as sources told Ed Werder of that no one is interested in Hardy, with executives calling him — at best — a “hard sell” to ownership and — at worst — “toxic.”
Dwight Freeney (Vertical)

4. Dwight Freeney, LB/DE: Freeney spent roughly a third of the 2015 season at home, waiting until the Cardinals called in October to get back on an NFL field. Now 36 years old, Freeney has become something of a cause célèbre of mine, as I think he’s a far more valuable player than the league apparently does. I outlined Freeney’s tools in April of last year, and much of what I wrote at the time still holds — any number of clubs could benefit from allowing Freeney to get after the quarterback 20-25 times per game. A reunion with Arizona isn’t out of the question, and the Ravens, Bengals, Panthers, Jets, Patriots, Lions, Chiefs, and Bills could all use an extra edge rusher.

5. Brandon Boykin, CB: At age 25, Boykin surprisingly had to settle for a minimum salary benefit contract to join the Panthers in March — he lasted less than two months on the roster, as he was released by Carolina earlier this week. That series of events, coupled with Boykin’s relative lack of playing time after being dealt to the Steelers last year, is hard to figure, as Boykin is considered one of the premier slot corners in the game. With teams lining up in sub packages more than 60% of the time, Boykin is capable of playing a substantial role, and shouldn’t stay on the street for long.

6. Mike Neal, LB: Neal started a career-high 15 games last season, and has posted at least four sacks in each of the past four years. He’s met with both the Lions and the Seahawks this offseason, but has yet to sign a contract, and would seemingly only be in line for a one-year pact at this point. The Packers selected fellow linebacker Kyler Fackrell in the third round of last month’s draft, so Green Bay probably isn’t an option (though Neal is open to returning). It’s possible that the 2015 Al Jazeera report that linked Neal to PEDs is hindering his market, a sentiment with which Neal agrees.Chris Culliver (Vertical)

7. Chris Culliver, CB: It’s been a trying 12 months or so for Culliver, whose 2015 one-game suspension voided his 2016 $8MM guarantee, making it much easier for Washington to release him — which they did earlier this month. Culliver, 27, also tore his ACL in November, meaning his availability for the start of the season could be in doubt. But Culliver is the one true outside cornerback on this list, and he has also has youth on his side. A smart team might sign Culliver to a two-year deal with limited or no guarantees for the 2017 season, let him rehab for the first half of 2016, and then evaluate him over the course of November and December.

8. Antrel Rolle, S: Rolle isn’t going to get the same kind of offers that fellow safety Whitner will — not only is he more than three years older, but Rolle ranked a little lower among safeties than did Whitner, coming in at No. 39 in the NFL according to PFF. Rolle has expressed an interest in reuniting with the Giants, with whom he spent the 2010-14 seasons, and on paper, it’s a match that makes a lot of sense, as New York needs a rangy free safety opposite Landon Collins. The Rams, Falcons, and Buccaneers could have interest in the veteran defensive back, as could the Colts if they plan to move 2016 second-rounder T.J. Green to cornerback, as has been rumored.

9. O’Brien Schofield, LB: Schofield and the Falcons were said to be working on a deal as far back as early March, but no signing ever came to fruition. At the time, the Cowboys, Bears, and Titans were reported to have interest in Schofield, and while he’s expressed his preference to return to Atlanta, he remains a free agent. Head coach Dan Quinn has stated he hopes that Schofield is re-signed, and the Falcons have in fact made an offer. Primarily a nickel linebacker, Schofield agreed to a two-year deal with the Giants in 2014 only to see it fall apart due to medical concerns — it’s unclear whether his current disagreement with Atlanta is due to injury questions or financial disparities.

10. Jeremy Mincey, DE: At 32 years old, Mincey isn’t going to suddenly blossom into a star, but he’s more than capable of being thrown into a defensive end rotation on a team that runs a 4-3 scheme. Mincey didn’t post any sacks last season, but he registered six quarterback takedowns in 2014, which led to him holding out for an extra $500K the following offseason. The Cowboys reportedly aren’t interested in a reunion, but Mincey did generate some level of trade interest last November, so it’s likely that there are clubs who’d be willing to offer a one-year deal.

Honorable mention: Chris Canty, DL; Henry Melton, DT; Kevin Williams, DT; Cortez Allen, CB; Antonio Cromartie, CB; Cortland Finnegan, CB; Jayron Hosley, CB; Will Allen, S.

Safety Walter Thurmond was not included on this list because he’s contemplating retirement and has reportedly turned down offers of $4MM per year.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Pead, Collins, Murray, Saints

Running back Isaiah Pead is confident that he’ll regain his footing with the Steelers after three unproductive seasons with the Rams, as Ralph N. Paulk of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Pead, along with Jordan Todman, is expected to back up DeAngelo Williams during the second half of the regular season. To date, Pead hasn’t looked like the explosive athlete who helped Cincinnati capture the 2009 Big East championship, but he believes that he is about to turn a corner.

  • Despite their shortcomings on the offensive line coming into the 2015 season, the Eagles didn’t explore signing undrafted free agent La’el Collins, as Dave Zangaro of writes. “We didn’t have any interest,” head coach Chip Kelly said Thursday. Collins went on to sign a three-year deal with the Cowboys worth $1.6MM guaranteed.
  • Tom Pelissero of USA Today wonders if having DeMarco Murray would change the Cowboys‘ season. While Darren McFadden has been just OK for Dallas, the club’s offensive line continues to be strong. Behind the power running of Murray, the Cowboys boasted one of the league’s best offenses and the top rushing attack. There’s no way to tell if this would be a totally different season with Murray in the backfield, but it certainly wouldn’t have hurt, Pelissero writes.
  • Saints defensive tackle Kevin Williams was non-committal when asked about his future beyond this season. “This is a fun thing. You get to be around your teammates, and if you can’t have fun with them, you know you’re not a close group,” the 35-year-old said, according to Katherine Terrell of The Times-Picayune. “So we joke and have fun. I think that’s what makes the game fun—the friendships you have.”

NFC South Notes: Falcons, Jones, Oher

Buccaneers running back Doug Martin has a lot of goals for the 2015 season, including one that might surprise you.

The name ‘Muscle Hamster’ is the worst nickname possibly ever given to somebody,” Martin told Tom Pelissero of USA Today Sports. “I hope it changes, and I hope that I play to a level where my nickname changes. That’s what my goals are.”

As Martin gets to work on that, let’s check out more from the NFC South..

  • Falcons star Julio Jones says he won’t be holding out to get a better deal like Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas,’s Vaughn McClure writes. “[Agent] Jimmy Sexton, he’s going to negotiate that with [general manager] Thomas [Dimitroff] and [Falcons owner] Mr. [Arthur] Blank. That’s the side they handle. My side, I’ve got to handle on the football field. I’ve got to keep showing up every day and putting in work,” Jones said. Atlanta picked up Jones’ fifth-year option, meaning that he’ll earn $10.2MM for 2015. The Falcons will have the option of slapping him with the franchise tag in 2016 if they don’t work out a new deal. If that happens, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Jones’ position change a bit.
  • The movie “The Blind Side” made Michael Oher a household name but the Panthers offensive tackle believes that the film has had an adverse affect on his career,’s David Newton writes. “I’m not trying to prove anything,” Oher said. “People look at me, and they take things away from me because of a movie. They don’t really see the skills and the kind of player I am. That’s why I get downgraded so much, because of something off the field. This stuff, calling me a bust, people saying if I can play or not … that has nothing to do with football. It’s something else off the field. That’s why I don’t like that movie.” Unable to live up to his first round billing, the Ravens released Oher this offseason, leading him to hook on with Carolina.
  • Kevin Williams will earn a base salary of $1MM with a $500K signing bonus on his deal with the Saints, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today (on Twitter). He can earn another $600K through playing time incentives. In 2014, the former first-round pick ranked in the middle of the pack among defensive tackles, according to Pro Football Focus’ data (subscription required). PFF’s grades placed Williams 40th out of 81 qualified DTs, as he finished the season with 38 tackles and three sacks.

Saints Sign Kevin Williams

The Saints have added some veteran depth to their defensive line, according to the team’s senior VP of communications, Greg Bensel. Bensel tweets that Kevin Williams has signed with the club, replacing tight end Harold Spears, who was waived.

Williams, who will turn 35 in August, visited the Saints last month, but didn’t immediately sign with the team at that point. Shortly after his trip to New Orleans, Williams told Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he’d prefer to re-sign with the Seahawks, but the defending NFC champions didn’t seem to share his interest. In New Orleans, Williams will see a familiar face across the line in practice, as center Max Unger has also made the move from the Seahawks to the Saints this offseason.

While Williams isn’t the same dominant defensive force that he was from 2004 to 2009, when he earned five All-Pro nods for the Vikings, he can still be a productive player. In 2014, the former first-round pick ranked in the middle of the pack among defensive tackles, according to Pro Football Focus’ data (subscription required). PFF’s grades placed Williams 40th out of 81 qualified DTs, as he finished the season with 38 tackles and three sacks.

Kevin Williams Pushing For Seahawks Return

Free agent defensive tackle Kevin Williams visited the Saints, but his preference remains returning to the Seahawks, Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press writes. Williams, 34, says he wants to play at least one more NFL season.

I want to go back to Seattle, but this is a business,’’ Williams said. “They’re still evaluating their roster. I guess there’s not that many 12-year veterans that everyone wants. Everyone wants to go younger.”

Williams went on to say that he had a good visit with the Saints but nothing is close yet with New Orleans. The veteran is no stranger to signing late in free agency – last season he signed with the Seahawks on June 12th. The six-time Pro Bowler had a solid season for Seattle in 2014 and became the starting nose tackle after Brandon Mebane was knocked out for the season with a hamstring injury in the ninth game.

Williams graded out as being very slightly below average in 2014, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He earned a -0.3 overall grade, a slight drop from 2013’s 0.9 mark. In 16 games last season, Williams recorded 38 total tackles with three sacks.

NFC South Notes: Swearinger, Saints, Jones

Let’s check in on a few items from around the NFC South….

  • A handful of NFC South teams are eyeing safety D.J. Swearinger, who was cut yesterday by the Texans and will become a free agent today if he’s not claimed on waivers. According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link), the Buccaneers are discussing claiming Swearinger, but there’s only a 50/50 chance they do so. Meanwhile, Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer says the Panthers are also considering putting in a claim for the ex-Texan, and Falcons safety William Moore tells’s Vaughn McClure that he thinks Swearinger would be a nice fit in Atlanta.
  • The Saints hosted defensive tackle Kevin Williams on a visit, according to Kristian Garic of WWL (on Twitter). The veteran free agent spent last season with the Seahawks after playing in Minnesota for 11 years. Williams isn’t the same player he was when he earned five All-Pro nods with the Vikings between 2004 and 2009, but he can still be an effective piece in the middle of a defensive line.
  • The Falcons are expected to work hard to extend wide receiver Julio Jones before the season gets underway, and the price to do so figures to be upwards of $80MM, writes D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

FA Rumors: Harrison, Williams, Wilson

Many speculated that James Harrison could follow former coach Dick LeBeau to the Titans, and on Wednesday we received confirmation of that. “We are certainly interested,” agent Bill Parise said of his client’s interest in the Titans, according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. “James feels very, very strongly about coach LeBeau. And I know Dick feels the same way. It’s a natural thing. I’m sure the Steelers are still in play, too. It will probably be one of those. I hope it’s one of those. We are not ruling anybody out, but the two logical fits are Tennessee and Pittsburgh. Those are the team teams that make the most sense.” More from around the league..

  • Former Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams is scheduled to visit the Steelers on Friday, a source tells Adam Schefter of (on Twitter).
  • Safety Jimmy Wilson told Josina Anderson of (on Twitter) that he will be visiting the Chargers on Friday. However, agent Drew Rosenhaus is still in talks with the Dolphins, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald tweets.
  • The Rams are still working on Kenny Britt, but there are other teams interested in him as a second choice or a Plan B at wide receiver, Jim Thomas of the Post-Dispatch tweets. Meanwhile, the Rams are thinking that they could get Joe Barksdale on the rebound, Thomas tweets. The thinking there is that the offensive tackle might be over-estimating his market value.
  • Former Eagles free safety Nate Allen will visit the Raiders later today, John Middlekauff of 95.7 The Game tweets.
  • Pass rusher Adrian Clayborn is scheduled to visit the Falcons today, a league source tells Vaughn McClure of (on Twitter).
  • Seahawks free agent linebacker Heath Farwell, 33, says he plans to continue to play and he believes defensive tackle Kevin Williams, 34, feels the same way, Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press writes. Farwell wouldn’t name any teams except to say the Vikings aren’t one that has reached out and that the Seahawks have expressed interest in bringing him back.

NFC Notes: Packers, Bears, Cruz, Falcons

As 2015’s Super Bowl Media Day rolls on, let’s round up a few Tuesday notes from across the NFC….

  • Only four of 11 Packers players who had per-game roster bonuses in their contracts failed to collect all their money, writes Rob Demovsky of, breaking down the players who did and didn’t receive their bonuses.
  • The Bears announced today (via Twitter) that they’ve reached an agreement with Clint Hurtt to become their outside linebackers coach. The fact that the team is distinguishing between outside and inside linebackers coaches now suggests a transition to a 3-4 defense under new DC Vic Fangio.
  • Victor Cruz‘s $8.125MM cap number will be the second-highest on the Giants‘ books in 2015, prompting Dan Graziano of to explore whether the team will need to address Cruz’s contract this offseason.
  • A pair of Falcons assistant coaches recently interviewed for other jobs, according to Adam Caplan of, who tweets that Glenn Thomas talked to the Browns about their quarterbacks coach position, while Gerald Brown met with the Raiders about their running backs coach job.
  • In an Insider-only piece for, Mike Sando takes a detailed look at how the Seahawks built the team that’s looking for its second consecutive Super Bowl win this Sunday.
  • Seahawks defensive tackle Kevin Williams is happy with the choice he made in free agency last offseason, but considering he narrowed his options down to Seattle and New England, he admitted this week that he “couldn’t have gone wrong,” writes Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.
  • Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News expects the Cowboys to target a pass rusher with their first-round pick this April, or at least to nab a defender if there are no ideal pass-rushing fits at No. 27.

NFC North Notes: Packers, Cobb, Mathis

With cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Davon House both eligible for free agency this offseason, the Packers must decide whether to retain one, neither, or both, writes Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. For his part, House would like to see both he and Williams work out new deals with the team.

“In a perfect world, we both come back,” House said. “But there’s only two starting corners on each team. Tramon is well-deserving. I feel like my potential is pretty high. So we’ll see, we’ll see.”

Here’s more from around the NFC North:

  • A team source tells Jason Wilde of that he can’t see Packers GM Ted Thompson letting wideout Randall Cobb get away in free agency. However, Cobb says that until he has signed on the dotted line, he “can’t be for certain on anything.”
  • Asked at the end of the 2014 season if he wanted to play one more season, cornerback Rashean Mathis suggested that he may have more than one year left in him, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press details. Although Mathis turns 35 before the 2015 season, he’s coming off a strong year, and would like to re-sign with the Lions, though he didn’t rule out the possibility of playing for another team.
  • Longtime Vikings nose tackle Kevin Williams is playing for the Seahawks now, looking for his first Super Bowl ring next Sunday, but when he eventually retires he wants to sign a one-day contract with Minnesota and go out as a Viking, as he tells Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.