Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Williams, Bucs agree to contract extension

TAMPA

Thirteen receivers were taken ahead of Mike Williams before the Bucs selected him in the fourth round, 101st overall, in the 2010 draft.

He wasn't even the first wideout nabbed by the Bucs. That was second-round choice Arrelious Benn, who struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness, and was traded to the Eagles for a couple of low-round selections in March.

"That was one of the chips on my shoulder, too, all the receivers that were taken ahead of me," Williams said, "saying they were better than me, ran routes better than me. It's always going to be on my shoulder."

Shortly after the Bucs reported to training camp Wednesday, Williams pushed all those shoulder chips to the middle of the table and cashed in with a six-year, $40.25 million contract extension with $15 million guaranteed.

The deal was not only a reward for what Williams, 26, has accomplished — his 193 receptions for 2,731 yards and 23 touchdowns in three seasons ranks behind only Cowboys first-round choice Dez Bryant in receiver production from the 2010 draft class — the Bucs were happy to pay it forward because he was entering the final year of his rookie contract.

"I think Mike is a unique player," general manager Mark Dominik said. "I think he's got one of the best body controls in the National Football League. I think it's innate, it's a rare trait, and I'm happy he's part of this team."

In 2010 Williams led all rookies with 65 catches for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns. But the 2011 lockout had an effect on his preparation and production. He caught 65 passes in 2011 but averaged fewer than 12 yards per reception and had only three touchdowns.

"Three touchdowns," Williams said, shaking his head Wednesday. "That wasn't me."

The Bucs recognized Williams isn't a typical No. 1 receiver. He lacks the speed to consistently beat double teams and get vertical with a safety over top. So they signed receiver Vincent Jackson, 30, to a five-year, $55.5 million deal last year.

Jackson had a career season in 2012 (72 catches, 1,384 yards, eight TDs) while leading the league with a 19.2-yard average, and he had a profound effect on the impressionable Williams.

"Having Vincent Jackson on my team, always having someone to look up to, having someone to watch … (work) to the level he works, I can only keep getting better," Williams said.

Williams bears blame for falling in the draft. At Syracuse, he was suspended in 2008 for academic reasons, and depending on to whom you talk, Williams either quit or was kicked off the team for the final three games of his senior year.

However, nobody ever doubted Williams' devotion to the game.

"The way he plays and practices the game is really important to me," coach Greg Schiano said. "We are looking for guys that are going to do things the right way and love the game of football, not likes it. And this guy right here, he loves it."

Williams' deal puts him in elite company. Giants Pro Bowl receiver Victor Cruz signed a six-year, $45.8 million deal this month with $15.6 million guaranteed. He caught 168 passes for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns in the past two seasons.

Dominik didn't seem worried the Bucs have nearly $100 million invested in salary for starting receivers. Neither did Schiano.

"They're my two, and I love them," Schiano said. "I wouldn't trade them for anybody, if that says anything."

   
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