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Last ride with Cadillac, maybe.

I wanted to follow up on my comment a few days ago regarding the Bucs decision this year (or more specifically, next offseason) to sign Carnell Williams to an extension or to let him walk away.  This will certainly be a much discussed subject as Cadillac has gone from top 5 pick and savior of the franchise, to underperformer who was roundly booed, to just another knee injury, to a fan favorite.  He's been through the entire player cycle within what should have been the first half of his career and yet, we still aren't quite sure what we have with him.  And as the year goes on and he suits up every game (knock on wood), we all will have two very different takes on what should happen.  I go back and forth on what I want to happen.  Fan Buc Wild wants one thing while Front Office Buc Wild wants another. 

And of course, you get to read what both think.

Front Office perspective

He'll be 29 years old as we start next season.  He'll most likely be in the top 17 in total carries for active players.  He's had two major knee surgeries, and while those issues have been fixed, anytime you operate on someone, they don't come out 100%.  It takes a toll on the body.  He's been a bruiser his whole career.  Never had breakaway speed, instead wearing defenses down for the 4th quarter long run.  He's making $2.3 million this year and probably isn't looking for a one year deal at the same price.  Any long term deal has to be team friendly.  We don't have a real long term threat behind him, but we can't wait much longer to find a top end running back.  Knowing he's not our long term answer, why do we re-sign him just to take carries away from someone else. He's been a good part of the organization, but you don't build championship teams on good memories, good will and hopes.

Ok, thats over.  From a team standpoint, I just don't see a situation in which they re-sign him unless he goes for 1,600 yards, shows breakaway speed, continues his pass catching and blitz pickup skills and the RB group in the draft is thin.  Realistically, Caddy can have an 1,100-1,200 yard year if he plays 15 games, but at some point, you give way to the younger guys.  Caddy is a fine player, but what will be 6 years, he is no longer the long term answer.  Sure, he has less wear and tear from a carries standpoint, but you have to figure the surgeries were worth a few hundred carries themselves.  Age 30 is typically the end of the road for running backs.  It's a tough reality, but sometimes you have to let players go.  Knowing when to do that is a key part of being in the front office.

Fan Perspective

The guy is a wonderful story.  Not once, but twice he was at the end of his career.  Throwing in the towel, sitting on the millions he had already made, enjoying people calling his nickname whenever he is in public.  There are all things that Cadillac could have done.  Instead, he busted his butt in rehab, in the weight room, and on the practice field to make it back.  I can remember last year hoping he would get a few preseason carries, maybe visit the endzone one last time and enjoy a graceful exit.  I did not expect to see a starting running back emerge.  When he opened up with 97 yards and a TD in the first game, it was like he hadn't missed a beat.  That alone makes him a good story.  But to go through the cycle of loved, hated, and now respected is a tough combo to ignore.  He hasnt seen a full slate of games in the NFL until last year.  Missing almost 2 years should leave a bit more tread on his tires than other running backs his age.  He has never been a speedster, more of a punisher that you can count on late in games.  With guys like Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, and soon, Ronde Barber all taking off, Cadillac remains as one of the, if not the only, feel good stories and players you can root for.  His enthusiasm after every play is contagious.  The team respects him by all accounts. 

He's improved his blitz pick up every year in the league.  He's become a reliable receiving threat out of the backfield.  The fumbling issues that were present in the first two years appear to be gone.  He's cheap at $2.3MM and while he does better with 20 touches a game, he will function well late in games.  He fits our offensive scheme.  Our OL can't open holes, but Cadillac has figured out how to run behind them, how to fall forward for that extra yard and has developed a sense as to when to be patient, and when to plow ahead. 

More than that though, he's my favorite player.  I followed him at Auburn.  I got excited when Gruden coached him in the Senior Bowl, high fived anything that was moving when we drafted him, and bought his jersey before his first preseason game.  I've worn it to every football related event since then.  I've met Cadillac twice and he's as down to Earth as you might expect.  He may never be the top 5 pick that changed our franchise, but he can still be the top end of a 65/35 split. 

This won't be the last you hear from me on the Cadillac issue, but with the season under way, it's time to start evaluating guys for the next few years.