The Buccaneers want to re-sign Cadillac Williams and have him return to the team in 2011 and reprise his role as Tampa Bay's third-down back. Williams, who is entering his seventh NFL season, will be an unrestricted free agent this year.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers want to re-sign Cadillac Williams, but whether that will happen or not will depend on how much the six-year running back will command on the free agent market.
Members of the Bucs’ brass want Williams to return because he excelled in the role of the team’s third-down back when rookie LeGarrette Blount established himself as the feature back after the first third of the 2010 campaign en route to a 1,000-yard season. Williams began the season as the starter, averaging 2.5 yards per carry, but finished with a 3.5 yards per carry average, rushing for 437 yards and two touchdowns on 125 carries.
As good as he was as a rusher, Williams was even better in the classic third down back role, catching a career-high 46 passes for 355 yards and the game-winning touchdown against St. Louis. The Auburn product was also the Bucs’ best pass protecting back in blitz pick-up.
With Blount already established in the starting running back role, Tampa Bay will not be in the market for a featured runner like Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams or Indianapolis' Joseph Addai. The Bucs will be looking for a backup player and some inside One Buc Place believe that Cadillac Williams is the best available option because he knows the offense, has proven he can stay healthy for the past two seasons and he has great leadership ability. Williams served as a great role model for Blount and took the rookie runner under his wing on and off the field last year.
As much as the Bucs want Williams to return, it will likely come after he tests free agency. Yet after suffering two devastating knee injuries in back-to-back seasons in 2007 and 2008 and losing his starting job in 2010, the runner up to the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2009 isn’t likely to command starter’s money or a starting job in free agency, which will should help Tampa Bay retain him.
But before Williams entertains the idea of possibly re-signing with the Bucs, he told PewterReport.com at the end of the 2010 campaign that he will explore free agency.
“I mean, I am a free agent so I’m going to explore my options,” said Williams. “The Bucs have been good to me. You know I love playing here. The fan base is awesome. We’ll see how things go.
“As a professional athlete you always want to explore your options if you have the opportunity. At the end of the day we’ll see how the thing goes, but I do enjoy playing with these guys. I think [quarterback Josh Freeman] is going to be a heck of player, so is Blount. I like playing here. We’ll see.”
It would take a monumental offer in terms of money and likely an offer for a starting job to sway Williams from his loyalty to the Buccaneers, however.
“No doubt,” said Williams. “Like I tell a lot of people. There is not a lot of loyalty in professional sports. I can’t do nothing but tip my hat to the Bucs. Going through what I went through there were guys waiting around and helping me through those tough times and not giving up on me. It means a lot. I’m very thankful and honored.”
In 2009, Williams ran for 823 yards (3.9 average) and four touchdowns. His one and only 1,000-yard season came as a rookie when he ran for 1,178 yards with six touchdowns and a 4.1 average. It was the only season where Williams averaged four yards per carry.
The 5-foot-11, 217-pound Williams will be 29 years old next season and has two reconstructed knees. This year Williams played on a one-year tender contract that paid him $2.22 million. Williams is a favorite of current Washington general manager Bruce Allen, who drafted him in 2005, and the Redskins could be in the market for another running back.
If Williams does return to Tampa Bay, the Bucs' backfield will likely be set for the 2011 season. Blount would be the starter with Williams and Earnest Graham, who is expected to log more carries as a halfback this season, as the primary backups. The Bucs also have Kregg Lumpkin, who can play halfback and fullback, in addition to fullback Erik Lorig.
Halfback Kareem Huggins is still recovering from a severe knee injury in 2010 that ended his season. He is expected to start the 2011 campaign on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list and cannot be counted on this season.
Should Williams not be re-signed by the Buccaneers, Tampa Bay would likely be forced to spend a mid- to late-round draft pick on another running back.
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