Cadillac Williams a big piece of Bucs' backfield picture
Running back Cadillac Williams lost his starting tailback job in 2010 to rookie LeGarrette Blount, a development that might suggest Williams -- at 28-years old -- is expendable.
But the way Williams finished the season actually suggests something totally different.
Williams gave the Bucs' offense a dimension it hasn't often had, providing Tampa Bay with a legitimate third-down back whose talents run the gamut. He ran effectively, pass blocked with aplomb and caught 46 passes -- third-most on the team behind Kellen Winslow and Mike Williams. So, with Williams soon to be a free agent, expect the Bucs to try and retain this multi-faceted running back. With all he brings to the offense, and given how much offensive coordinator Greg Olson trusts him in the passing game, he is quite valuable to Tampa Bay.
One of the concerns some will express about Williams is his history of knee injuries, something that can't be ignored. But the good news on that front is that Williams' reduced role involves far less wear and tear on the body because Blount presumably will continue to be the featured back. There are a number of examples, such as Kevin Faulk, of backs who continued to perform the role of third-down specialist well into their 30s.
A small factor in the outcome of Williams' situation is Kareem Huggins, who is slated to return next season after tearing his ACL in his first appearance of 2010. That will provide the Bucs with a nice boost in the backfield, but the truth is that Huggins may or may not be well suited for the role Williams currently performs. There's just no way to know because Huggins doesn't have a big enough body of work yet. And it's certainly possible the Bucs could see keeping both Williams and Huggins as a good option because it's clear they could use the depth in the backfield.
Williams has said he wants to test the market because this will be his first foray into free agency. But the going rate for Williams should be more than reasonable, certainly a price tag the Bucs can stomach. That might mean, in essence, if the Bucs want him, they likely could have him. So, unless someone offers Williams a chance to regain his role as a starting running back, we'll probably know exactly what the Bucs think of him based on what they decide to do here.
Because it's a scenario that seems to work for both parties, don't be surprised if Williams ends up right back where it all began for him -- in Tampa Bay.