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NFL : Bills Take Big Risk In Adding WR Mike Williams

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According to media reports, the Buffalo Bills have acquired wide receiver Mike Williams from the Tampa Bay Bucs for a sixth round draft pick.

Williams, about to enter his fifth year in the league, has career totals of 215 receptions for 2,947 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns. During his first three years in the league, he never caught less than 63 passes in a season and never missed a start, forming a formidable 1-2 tandem with Vincent Jackson in 2012, where he was four yards shy of 1,000 receiving yards and caught nine touchdown passes.

Last year, Williams missed all but the first six games of the season due to a lingering hamstring issue; totaling only 22 receptions for 216 yards and two touchdowns.

Williams is considered to be a strong No. 2 receiver and possible No.1 on a receiver-needy team. At 6’2″ and 212 pounds he is the bigger, sturdier receiver that the Bills are currently lacking. But Williams does not come without risks and his addition to the Bills’ roster continues a trend begun under head coach Doug Marrone and General Manager Doug Whaley, who both overlooked the arrests of Kiko Alonso and defensive back Duke Williams when they Buffalo drafted them last year.

Similarly, they chose to sign undrafted free agent WR Da’Rick Rogers after he had failed multiple failed drug tests while at Tennessee, leading to his later dismissal from the team. They followed that up this offseason by signing LB Brandon Spikes, who, while having no reported off field issues, does have questions about his work ethic and respect for authority.

Williams’, originally from the Buffalo area, played under Marrone at Syracuse, was suspended for the entire 2008 season due to academic impropriety, quit the team in 2009 before electing to declare for the NFL draft in 2010, where he was selected in the fourth round by the Bucs.

Certainly, Williams’ on-field play has been solid, as he accumulated nearly 1,000 receiving yards and caught 11 touchdown passes during his rookie year–however, his off-the-field troubles have continued to follow him.  Charged in February with criminal mischief and trespassing, Williams was hospitalized in March after being stabbed in the thigh by his brother in an alleged domestic dispute.

Williams clearly isn’t surrounding himself with the right people and I’m not sure how returning to his hometown is going to help him distance himself from the bad influences that plagued him during his high school and college years. Marrone obviously still sees promise in Williams, and believes that taking him under his wing again will keep him out of trouble and return the focus to his abilities as an elite receiver.

If Williams can overcome these off-field distractions, he is certainly worth the sixth-round pick the Bills gave up to get him, as he comes with little financial risk as the cap hit for Williams will only be $1.8 million for 2014.

His base salary–along with a roster bonus–will rise in 2015 to $6.2 million, with no guaranteed money after 2015. Williams will provide the bigger, more physical receiver that will serve as a complement to Robert Woods’ speed and continued development as well as taking some pressure from current No.1 receiver Stevie Johnson who has had issues staying healthy.

It is worth asking, however, if the Bills even needed to give up the sixth-round pick, as all draft picks are crucial to a rebuilding team for Williams as new Bucs’ head coach Lovie Smith had made it clear that he wasn’t pleased with Williams off-field antics. It isn’t improbable to think that the Bucs would have released Williams and the Bills would have been in the running to sign him, possibly at a lower price and without having surrendered a valuable draft pick.

Still, if Williams returns to the level of production he exhibited during his first three years in the league this was a justifiable move.

The Bills’ acquisition of Williams would seem to take them out of the market for a wide receiver in the first round of the draft and suggest that they are now focused on obtaining an élite tackle that their offensive line so desperately needs at No. 9.

Or, Buffalo could be looking to add even more weapons for second-year quarterback EJ Manuel, they may now set their sights on tight end Eric Ebron.

These would be the two logical moves, but with reports last week that the Bills may have had preliminary discussions with the Houston Texans to trade up No. 1, it would seem that anything is possible for the Bills.

What we do know is that the Bills made a solid move in trading for Williams Friday, hopefully Williams works out as well as the drafting of Alonso, who turned out to be as quiet off the field as he was effective on it.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com

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