Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have begun contract talks with wide receiver Mike Williams after a very good third season in Tampa.
According to Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have begun discussing a contract extension with wide receiver Mike Williams. The receiver is coming off his best season, having caught 63 passes for 996 yards and 9 touchdowns in 16 games. Williams has one year left on his contract
Williams was a fourth-round draft pick in 2010 out of Syracuse, but he didn't fall that far because of a lack of talent. He ended up being a fourth-round pick because of his troubles at Syracuse, where he first became academically ineligible, later faced several suspensions and ultimately left the team during the 2009 season. But since his entrance in the league, Williams has turned into a starting caliber wide receiver, collecting 2,731 yards in his three seasons in the league so far.
The receiver struggled as the lone receiving threat in 2011, but showed that he was a very good second receiver in 2012, when the Bucs brought in Vincent Jackson. Williams' best attribute isn't his route-running or speed, but his ability to make contested catches. That also makes him a productive receiver pretty much without a quarterback: he has a wide catching radius and can still catch a poorly thrown ball. He does have his weaknesses, though: he has a tendency to use his body to catch certain balls, leading to a few too many juggles and drops, and he's generally reluctant to catch passes over the middle.
Given a recent five-year, $36.3 million contract for Marques Colston, a four-year, $25.9 million deal for Robert Meachem, a five-year, $42 million contract for Pierre Garcon and a five-year, $32 million contract for Laurent Robinson, I would expect Mike Williams to get something closer to Meachem's or Laurent Robinson's deal: around $6 million per year. Williams has been solid, but he has not been outstanding and hasn't proven he's worth being paid like a number one receiver. He also has one very cheap year left on his contract, which depresses his leverage. But his youth and production under a very cheap contract (four years, $2.33 million) will help him get a relatively big deal.
Signing a young, productive receiver to a long-term contract early is a smart move. It's something the Bucs have neglected to do in recent years, as they've generally waited for players to hit the market before offering them contract extensions. Which is why the Bucs will have to pony up a lot more money to keep someone like Michael Bennett.