The Buccaneers parted ways with a Pro Bowl cornerback in Darrelle Revis because he made too much money and occupied too much precious salary cap space.
Tampa Bay parted ways with one of the most upstanding citizens, a two-time Pro Bowler and a Buccaneers Man of the Year in right guard Davin Joseph because he made too much money and his play slipped.
That combination of sub-par play and too high of a price tag was also the reasoning that led to the departure of two more good guys in left tackle Donald Penn and center-guard Jeremy Zuttah.
So why is wide receiver Mike Williams still on the Bucs’ roster?
Williams was stabbed in the thigh by his brother at his Tampa home on Sunday in what is the latest twist in the soap opera of the troubled Tampa Bay wideout. WTSP 10 News first reported the news of Williams’ stabbing.
This coming on the heels of a lengthy February report in the Tampa Bay Times
detailing Williams’ property damage and trespassing misdemeanor, and his unruly and disruptive behavior with wild house parties and property damage in a home he rented in the quiet Lutz neighborhood of The Sanctuary.
That report was preceded by PewterReport.com’s story in January detailing the previous regime of general manager Mark Dominik and head coach Greg Schiano’s desire to release Williams this offseason
due to his hard-partying ways and negative off-field behavior that resulted in fines of over $200,000 for missing or being late to multiple rehab sessions and team meetings during 2013. When PewterReport.com’s report came out in January regarding the leader of the Cave Man Gang rap group and party crew, it was met with some initial skepticism and even some disbelief, but it’s really hard to give Williams the benefit of the doubt now.
Perhaps when all of the facts come out, Williams may be completely innocent in this situation, or maybe there was a terrible accident that happened in his home. But with his brother on the run on Sunday night from authorities, who want to question him, it just doesn’t seem to be accidental. Trouble just seems to follow Mike Williams, doesn’t it?
There was definitely some buyer’s remorse in signing Williams to a six-year, $40.25 million contract extension this offseason by Dominik and Schiano, and that remorse had just as much or more to do with Williams’ character and off-field behavior as the months rolled along in the fall, as it did with his injury-plagued 2013 campaign. Williams missed 10 games and was put on injured reserve with a torn hamstring after catching just 22 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns.
By December, Williams was not deemed to be a Buccaneer Man by Dominik and Schiano’s standards anymore. So how in the world could Williams be a Buccaneer Man by the high standards proclaimed by head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht?
The only thing that could have been worse than the news of Williams being stabbed was that if he had been the stabber – or if someone had died.
Granted, it didn’t involve gunfire, nor did it involve an arrest of Williams as former Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib’s incarceration did a few years ago in Texas during the offseason. But doesn’t it seem like Williams is destined to enter Talib territory sometime soon?
Williams’ behavior as a wild child is not serving him well, nor does it look good for the Buccaneers. Say what you want about Schiano, but he had the guts to part ways with the likes of malcontents, such as tight end Kellen Winslow and running back LeGarrette Blount, and players of ill repute such as Talib, free safety Tanard Jackson and defensive tackle Brian Price even though it weakened the roster and robbed the team of some playmaking ability.
Talib and Blount were able to find a home at Bill Belichick’s House For Wayward Buccaneers (otherwise known as the New England Patriots), and with his uber-strict environment, coupled with a much-needed change of scenery, those two players were able to steer clear of trouble and salvage their promising NFL careers. Smith and Licht would be well served to attempt to deal Williams to New England, which still needs help at wide receiver despite re-signing Julian Edelman and adding Brandon LaFell in free agency.
But Schiano has likely already informed his buddy Belichick to steer clear of Williams. The truth is that Williams doesn't have much trade value at all.
What made parting ways with Revis, Joseph, Penn and Zuttah easy was that each moved created additional salary cap space. Cutting Williams this year would create a cap hit of $6.4 million in dead money.
This is due to Williams’ $1.2 million guaranteed base salary in 2014 and his $5.2 million guaranteed base salary in 2015. However, if the Bucs elect to designate Williams as a June 1 salary cap casualty, only $1.8 million would hit the books this year and an additional $5.2 million cap charge would hit in 2015. This would make the move more palatable this year, and with the expected rise in the 2015 salary cap to as much as $145 million, according to some estimates, the $5.2 million could be more easily absorbed next year.
Smith has been vocal about his displeasure with Williams’ antics and off-field behavior.
“There’s a pattern here and it’s disturbing. No one is bigger than this football team,” Smith said in February. “He has to understand that. Have I been disappointed in Mike Williams? Of course.
“There’s a standard. We’re just not going to put up with it, no matter who it is. You have to be good on the field and off the field. Simple as that. And if you’re not doing what you need to do one or the other, you have problems and that’s where Mike has to take care of a few things.”
Yes, he does. Williams has spent the 2014 offseason rehabbing his torn hamstring. Now he has to rehab a stabbed thigh, and a damaged reputation – neither of which is helping the Buccaneers.
There's no doubt that Williams was a victim of violence on Sunday, and that's unfortunate. We don't know all the facts just yet, but people don't tend to get stabbed in their home by family members without some cause. If nothing else, Williams may be the victim of his own poor decision-making once again, but that's a problem outlined by Smith.
Williams is a good number two receiver – nothing more. He has come very close to eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark twice in his four-year Bucs career, but he is not irreplaceable. Wide receiver is already an area of need for Tampa Bay, and his release would cause an even greater hole on the roster.
With a couple of servicable free agent wide receivers left on the market, such as Louis Murphy, Jacoby Ford and Sidney Rice, a deep draft full of receivers, headlined by Clemson’s Sammy Watkins, and a couple of veteran pass-catchers bound to be released after the draft or after June 1, as former Tampa Bay flanker Keenan McCardell was in 2002, Williams could be replaced via several different avenues.
The precedence has already been set by Smith and Licht in Tampa Bay. If you can’t help the Buccaneers and you cost too much money, it’s time to go. Williams fits the criteria.
Throw in Williams’ poor decision-making and questionable character, and this should be an easy decision for Smith and Licht to make. It’s time for Tampa Bay to cut Williams.
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