With the signing of RB Derrick Ward it appears the writing is on the wall for Carnell ‘Cadillac’ Williams and his ability to remain a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. This is a contract year for Caddy who was drafted four years ago with the 5th pick in the NFL’s 2005 Draft. He was signed to a 5 year $31 million dollar deal ($6.2 million a season) that expires this season. I can’t believe it’s been five years since he entered the league. For many fans Williams presents a sore subject. He electrified the fan base his Rookie Season rushing for 434 yards in three games to start the season and finishing the season as the NFL’s Rookie of the year (14 starts, 6 100 yard games, 1178 yards and 6 touchdowns). The story of his career has been injuries, so much in fact that he is the definition of injury prone. He’s missed games every year due to injuries.
His rookie season he missed two games due to an injured ankle/arch in his foot. In his second season he had a nagging back injury that lingered throughout the season and led to him missing two games. In his third season he suffered the most crippling/devastating injury of his career against the Carolina Panthers while attempting to run out of bounds. He tore his patellar tendon and missed the rest of that season. Caddy would bounce back however last season as he was starting to hit his stride until he was taken down awkwardly against the Raiders while attempting to get out of bounds. He once again had torn his patellar tendon, this time in his other knee. Not only did this game result in the Bucs missing the Playoffs it also put Caddy’s career in serious jeopardy.
As we know now the torn patellar tendon he suffered during the final game of the season was not as severe as his previous tear the season before. Carnell is expected to be ready for Training Camp which should help him prepare for the rigors of the regular season as last off-season he was not able to participate. With three healthy running backs on the roster and a potential fourth to arrive via the draft, Caddy may be the odd man out. When asked about Caddy, G.M. Mark Dominik didn’t tip his hand either way: "We'll find a role for a guy like Carnell if it makes sense" - GM Mark Dominik. That isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for the former Auburn Tiger/Eagle.
Here’s my rationale for keeping Carnell. First he’s already under contract, meaning his cap number is already being accounted for this season, with $40+ million in cap space there’s no reason to cut him due to salary restraints. Secondly, we’ve only received two productive years, four years through his contract, why release the guy and allow another team the possibility of enjoying the production he basically owes us (I know that sounds harsh, this is a business though right)? If he can bounce back and I realize that’s a huge if; he hasn’t taken the typical beating a 5th year back in the league usually takes. My main reason to retain him is for depth purposes. Earnest Graham, though reliable, did suffer an ankle injury last season that sidelined him. Jags is interested in getting Clifton Smith into the offensive fold. What if he gets injured? Football is a game of field position, sure Dexter Jackson could play and do what he was drafted to do, but is anybody confident he can?
Prediction: If the Bucs end up drafting a first day running back in April, meaning a 1st or 3rd rounder then I feel Caddy’s days with the Bucs will be over. If they draft a back on the second day or not at all I think Caddy remains with the team. I personally hope he remains with the team. He is so determined to be a football player that his positive attitude and effort has to be contagious amongst his teammates, plus he’s truly a great guy. Lastly I believe in the guy, to go through that first patellar tear, bounce back, have it repeat itself, to only attempt to come back once again; how can you not root for this guy to succeed in a Bucs jersey? Do you want or think Caddy will remain with the Bucs?