The Commanders announced today that they have prevented two players from hitting free agency after signing linebacker David Mayo and running back Jonathan Williams to one-year extensions. Both players will return for their third season in Washington.
Mayo was originally a fifth-round draft pick for the Panthers in 2015 out of Texas State. He played out his rookie contract mainly as a special teamer, earning the first defensive snaps of his career near the end of his sophomore season. He would slowly earn more playing time in Carolina over the next two years but would only play more than half the defensive snaps in a game for the Panthers three times in four years.
After playing out his contract, Mayo signed a two-year deal with the 49ers in 2019 but failed to make it through the 53-man roster cuts to start the season. He would sign with the Giants just prior to the season beginning and, despite the lack of practice time with the team, would quickly emerge as a starting linebacker in New York. In his strongest NFL season to date, Mayo started 13 games, recorded 82 total tackles, five tackles for loss, and two sacks. After signing a three-year extension to stay in New York, Mayo would start the next year on injured reserve and see his role drastically diminished. He was released after the 2020 season and signed with Washington two weeks later.
During his time in Washington, Mayo has returned to a role mostly on special teams but gets quite a few opportunities on the field with the defense. In his two seasons with the team, he has gotten starting opportunities for a few games to end each season.
Williams is another player that’s bounced around quite a bit before landing with the Commanders. Another fifth-round selection, Williams started his career with the Bills in 2016 backing up LeSean McCoy and Mike Gillislee. Following his rookie season, Williams was cut just prior to the 2017 season, which he would end up spending on the practice squads of Denver and New Orleans. Williams would spend parts of the next three seasons with the Saints, Colts, and Lions, struggling to find any consistent playing time.
Williams’s roster spot in Washington has been tenuous over the years as he’s spent time on the practice squad and been released a couple of times. His best year came when he was with the Colts, but during his two years in Washington, Williams has carried the ball 54 times for 231 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Mayo should have an opportunity to start in his return to the Commanders next season. Williams’s role on the team is a bit less clear. The team is set to return Brian Robinson, Antonio Gibson, and J.D. McKissic to the running backs room, all of whom sit ahead of Williams on the depth chart when healthy. If Jaret Patterson also avoids free agency and returns to Washington, that would likely put Williams at fifth on the depth chart. Injuries last year provided Williams with his opportunities to play, and he may serve as an insurance option in 2023.