Williams worth keeping around

Packers appear ready to move on without defensive tackle in 2008

What more does Corey Williams have to do to impress the Green Bay Packers?

The defensive lineman enjoyed his best season as a pro last year with career highs in tackles (47) and sacks (7). But then general manager Ted Thompson went out and used the team's No. 1 overall pick on defensive tackle Justin Harrell to compete at the team's deepest position.

Williams began training camp with the first-team defense next to Ryan Pickett on the line, but then Johnny Jolly, who failed his physical at the start of camp due to conditioning, was soon promoted ahead of Williams.

Despite the fact that Williams is tied for third among defensive linemen with 21 tackles and has two sacks, a forced fumble that led to a touchdown against Washington, and one pass defensed, he is still playing behind Jolly. Williams has started one game this season while Jolly has five starts.

And don't look now, but the Packers are planning on giving Harrell more reps as the second half of the season gets under way, though, Harrell is far from pushing anyone for a starting spot or top backup. That might affect Williams, a fourth-year pro who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, but that's a stretch at this point.

Why has Williams suddenly turned into the Rodney Dangerfield of the Packers? It's a fact that Williams got off to a slow start in his first two years in Green Bay, but so do a lot of defensive linemen, like Harrell and Jolly. There have been whispers that Williams' work habits are questionable, but that has been difficult to conclude for this observer. If Williams' work habits are questionable, what about Jolly?

Of the players currently on Green Bay's roster who will be eligible to sign with other teams, Williams should be one that the Packers strongly consider keeping around, but it appears as if Green Bay will be content to let the defensive tackle walk away. During his breakout season last year, and this year, he has shown an ability to get to the quarterback, or to make plays to help the defense.

"I feel like I've been having a pretty good season," Williams said. "I can't talk too good because we've got a long ways to go. As of right now, I feel like I've been having a great season."

On the outside Williams is trying to be as humble as possible, but inside, he's got to be giddy. While he is earning $850,000 this year, he could be up for a much larger contract next season despite the fact that he hasn't been starting. Williams, selected in the sixth round of the 2004 NFL draft by Green Bay, probably could start on many teams but he has, more or less, fallen out of favor to start for the Packers.

Will Williams figure to be in the future plans for the Packers' defensive line? Right now, it doesn't look like it. Ryan Pickett and Jolly will be under contract for a few more years, as will Harrell. Backup Colin Cole is scheduled to become a restricted free agent next season, so the Packers likely will re-sign him.

As for Williams? It doesn't seem likely that the Packers will pay him what he will be able to demand on the open market next spring. Though the Packers have plenty of cash on hand now to extend the contract of Williams, he may be on the outside looking in come March, unless he has a big second half to this season. Tight end Donald Lee also is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and the Packers probably will focus on extending his contract before the end of this season before they do with Williams.

"I think about it sometime, but it's hard not to think about it," Williams said. "I just don't let it get to the point that it's affecting my game. I can't worry about, ‘Hey, am I going to be here next year? What about this? What about that?' Whatever happens, happens. As long as I'm wearing a ‘G' on this helmet, I'm going to give it everything I've got, and at the end of the season, if I continue to wear the ‘G' on my helmet, I'm going to continue to be a happy camper. If not, I just have to move on and wherever I end up at, do the same and give it all I got."

If that happens, the Packers could regret that Williams got away.

Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.

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