Many Tampa Bay Buccaneers players engage in social media websites, such as Twitter or Instagram, and offer their fans a glimpse into their private lives. Whether it is cornerback Johnthan Banks going hunting back home in the countryside of Mississippi on New Year’s Day, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy thanking his lovely wife with pics of his new video game console or the swag he got for Christmas or videos from the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, or tight end Tim Wright posting pics of his touchdowns as he soaks in his rookie season, the Internet provides fans with an interesting look at how the players spend their free time and what’s important to them outside of football.
The Buccaneers front office has accounts set up to follow each player on social media and keep tabs of the team’s financial investments. This is not uncommon at all, as likely every team has an individual within their organization assigned to monitor the players’ activities on social media.
One particular Buccaneer’s postings on Instagram really concerned the team during this past football season, and nearly cost him his roster spot. Fresh off signing a six-year, $40.25-million contract extension in the summer of 2013, wide receiver Mike Williams was placed on injured reserve in Week 9 with a torn hamstring. Since his injury, Williams has documented his partying and his new career as a rapper – complete with original recorded songs – for all the public to see on his Instagram account.
Players can party all they want to – as long as it doesn’t get them in trouble with the law or interfere with their job. But the team grew so concerned with Williams’ behavior over the last two months of the season that it was deemed immature and unprofessional as he accumulated several fines totaling more than $200,000 for either being late to mandatory team meetings or missing those meetings and scheduled rehab days for his torn hamstring during the 2013 season.
Whether it’s at The Kennedy or Drynk, two well-known Tampa hot spots, or at his big, new house, Williams and his group of friends and rappers, known as the Cave Man Gang – or CMG, as their t-shirts, hats and hoodies proclaim – love the nightlife. Unfortunately for Williams, the team viewed his constant partying on Instagram as detrimental to his profession due to those missed meetings and rehab sessions.
Williams, the aspiring rapper, can be seen singing some lyrics (that would be deemed unsuitable for minors) with his Cave Man Gang crew in the studio and on the countertops of his kitchen on New Year’s Eve. Notably absent to the team during the regular season were pictures of Williams working hard on his comeback or doing any rehab on his hamstring. From a post that simply reads DEDICATED TO FOOTBALL in September to his an early January entry, Williams had exactly three football-related posts out of 135 on his Instagram account. Later in the month of January, Williams has put up a few videos of him dunking a basketball and doing some push-ups, as well as a few Bucs football pics.
Williams also has several pics of his son, showing his dedication as a father, and some funny videos of the charismatic receiver clowning around. Of course, America is a free country and it’s Williams’ prerogative to post what he wants on social media, but his posting of constant partying pics and videos during football season didn’t sit well with the previous regime, especially with him missing rehab sessions or being late to them.
Williams was limited to just 22 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns in six games in 2013 before going on injured reserve, but had a $7.2 million base salary and a $1 million roster bonus, which made his cap value for this past season $8.2 million. Bucs general manager Mark Dominik drafted Williams in the fourth round in 2010 and has been loyal to the dynamic wide receiver, but was cautious about the level of 26-year old’s maturity when doing the contract extension last summer.
That’s why Dominik dropped the base salary to just $1.2 million in 2014 so he could release him if Williams’ 2013 performance didn’t warrant the pay increase and the extension, or Williams lost his focus, which several members of the organization were concerned about. With a big base salary and a bonus in 2013, Williams was essentially rewarded for his past deeds – two seasons in 2010 and 2012 in which he was just a few yards shy of 1,000 yards in each campaign with a combined 19 touchdowns in those years. But the contract extension could basically be viewed as a one-year deal as his salary drops significantly in 2014 – by design – giving Williams the incentive to keep working hard to earn the higher balance of his big contract, which takes place from 2015-17.
Williams’ base salary climbs to $5.2 million in 2015, followed by base salaries of $5.6 million in 2016 and $5.9 million in 2017. His base drops to $4.15 million in 2018, but he is also slated to receive a $4 million roster bonus that year. Williams currently receives a $1 million roster bonus and a $600,000 workout bonus every year from 2014-17. After taking up $8,334,562 in cap room in 2013, Williams only occupies $1.8 million in 2014, which makes him vulnerable to be released prior to 2015 because his cap number climbs to $6.8 million next year.
PewterReport.com has learned that if Dominik and head coach Greg Schiano had returned in 2014, the Bucs were considering signing former Rutgers wide receiver Kenny Britt, a first-round pick in Tennessee in 2009 and free agent in 2014, who might have replaced Williams if he didn’t get serious about football during the OTAs (organized team activities) and have a great training camp. The 6-foot-3, 223-pound Britt has caught 19 touchdowns in the NFL and averaged 15.6 yards per catch, and could have turned his pro career around under the guidance of Schiano, who recruited him at Rutgers.
Yes, the Bucs were that concerned about Williams’ partying and flamboyant ways that they were prepared to release him this offseason unless he showed he was more dedicated to football than the Cave Man Gang.
This cautionary tale is not meant to embarrass Williams or cast him in a negative light. The PewterReport.com staff actually has a great rapport with the friendly, outspoken Syracuse product, so this should only serve as a warning to Williams and other Buccaneers players that it’s not just a bevy of fans and hot women that follow their every move on social media – it’s also the men at One Buccaneer Place responsible for paying them millions of dollars, and the men coaching them up so that they earn their paychecks.
It’s disappointing, but it seems as if Williams’ off-field behavior is mimicking that of former Bucs wide receiver Michael Clayton, who began living life in the fast lane in Tampa after a breakout rookie season in which the 2004 first-round pick had 80 catches for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns. Clayton began doing photo shoots with his Bentley and swank new house, dated American Idol winner Fantasia, and was a regular fixture on the Tampa party scene. Former players and members of the Bucs front office told PewterReport.com that clearly played a role in Clayton’s lack of success past the 2004 campaign and derailed his NFL career.
New regimes are famous for doing some initial housecleaning of the roster, evidenced by the quick departures of some players deemed to be bad apples by the previous regime in free safety Tanard Jackson, tight end Kellen Winslow, defensive tackle Brian Price and wide receiver Dez Briscoe during Schiano’s first year in Tampa Bay. The Bucs’ new head coach, Lovie Smith, and Jason Licht, the team’s new general manager, don’t have any ties to Williams or any personal investment in him, and that can be viewed as good or bad.
It’s good for Williams because with Dominik and Schiano gone, the talented wide receiver will get a clean slate with a new general manager and head coach. But it can be bad because sooner rather than later, the new members of the Bucs’ brass will undoubtedly learn about his rap career, the regular late-night partying at The Kennedy and the Cave Man Gang and feel the same way as the previous regime did if Williams doesn’t change his ways and show he’s serious about football.
What type of first impression will Williams make with the new regime? The one on Instagram, or one where he doesn’t miss a meeting, doesn’t miss a rehab session or doesn’t miss a day’s worth of work during the voluntary conditioning days and OTAs? That answer will likely dictate exactly how long Williams plays in pewter and red.
– Attempts by PewterReport.com to reach Williams and his agent for comment were unsuccessful.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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