Williams’ breakout season in 2010 was largely due to his commitment to a workout regimen that had him in prime physical condition, as well as a strong desire to get back on the football field. Some whispered that he was not in the same shape last season, which contributed to his drastic drop-off in production. Williams was rarely targeted by Tarvaris Jackson, and never appeared to develop a rapport with his new quarterback. Jackson avoided tight spots for throws, and Williams is rarely wide open. Sidney Rice was clearly Jackson’s favorite target, and the only player he would throw to even if he was double or triple covered. The hope was that a full off-season would allow Williams to work his way back to peak condition and find that chemistry with Jackson (or fill in your favorite starter at quarterback). The broken leg Williams suffered toward the end of last season cost him that chance. Or, at least, that’s giving Williams the benefit of the doubt. It is also possible that Williams did not demonstrate that he was willing to put in the time necessary to work his way back into the Seahawks plans.
The addition of Kellen Winslow Jr. likely played a factor. Even though Williams plays wide receiver, his best position was often in the slot or running quick slants where he could use his big body to wall off defenders. The combination of Doug Baldwin and Winslow can run the routes Williams would run and do it with more success, while also offering a plethora of other abilities.
Some will immediately jump to the conclusion that this release means Kris Durham, Richardo Lockette, Golden Tate or some other receiver has proven he can be the starting split end. That is possible, but not a certainty. Instead, imagine Williams as a collection of routes and skills that merit a range of snaps in the game plan. Winslow and Baldwin could cover maybe 60% of those, leaving some combination of the other receivers to cover the rest. In other words, the release of Williams does not mean the team has lost it’s #2 receiver. We won’t know who is taking which parts of Williams reps until camp opens. Don’t be surprised if Ben Obomanu lines up opposite Rice to begin with. The guy plays with heart and does his job well. It would be great if a guy like Lockette, who has top shelf speed, could earn it. Early word is that he has been dropping far too many balls to merit serious consideration so far.
Finding enough snaps for Deon Butler, Lockette, Tate, Durham, and Obomanu to evaluate them is going to be tough as it is. Not to mention the likes of Jermaine Kearse, Phil Bates, Lavasier Tuinei, and the rest of the undrafted kids. Keeping Williams around just muddies and already murky picture. The front office would have to be convinced that the he would offer things the other players simply were not capable of to justify keeping him around.
The other wildcard here is Chris Clemons. What does a defensive end have to do with a wide receiver? Williams was set to make $3M this year. Adding that budget to the Clemons negotiations can only help.
Williams was a fast favorite, and a unique talent. It was fun to watch him in 2010, and the hope will be he will catch on somewhere else (outside of the NFC) and revive his comeback.