The fourth-year defensive lineman has quietly been one of the most valuable players on the Packers' defense the past two seasons. He played perhaps the best game of his career (according to some Packers' coaches) last week at Kansas City before being forced out of the game with a knee injury.
Williams' worth, though, is more than just one game can show. He brings it every week in whatever role the coaches ask of him. He never complains. Players like that are hard to find, thus it should be a no-brainer that Williams is back in green and gold next year.
Contract talks, which reportedly started as early as last March, have failed to produce a deal though, which means Williams more than likely will hit the market in about three months as one of the league's top free agents. He is playing out the final year of his rookie contract this season.
Anyone who follows the Packers closely knows that they have been quick to re-sign core players to long-term contracts as much as a year or two before they are scheduled to hit free agency. Tight end Donald Lee, center Scott Wells, linebacker Nick Barnett, and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins are four of the more recent examples of players who the Packers would not let other teams compete for on the open market.
So what is hold-up with Williams? Is he not valued as a core player worthy of a big deal? It would appear not based on repeated negotiations which have failed to produce a contract.
Logically, one could see why the Packers might not think of Williams as highly as they should. Based on their rotation of defensive lineman, he really is not an every-down player or full-time starter - and playing alongside top veterans like Aaron Kampman, Ryan Pickett, and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, it is easy to lose him in the shuffle.
Then there is Jenkins, who the Packers signed to a long-term deal this past off-season, a budding young star in defensive tackle Johnny Jolly, and a rookie first-rounder in defensive tackle Justin Harrell.
It could be argued that Williams might only be the third, fourth, or even fifth best defensive lineman the Packers have, but that should not detract from giving him a big contract. What should matter is his entire body of work – and his is as good as or better than any of the above mentioned.
Williams had 47 tackles and seven sacks in 2006, numbers alongside the top defensive lineman in the NFL, yet he started only 11 games.
This year, though he almost mysteriously was demoted to a new role as a backup and a dual player at end and tackle, he has continued to make plays. He is third among defensive lineman on the team with 29 tackles and also has four sacks, one interception, one forced fumble, and one pass defended.
Williams started just his third game of the year against the Chiefs this past week and in just over a half of play had seven tackles and two sacks before injuring his knee and sitting out most of the second half.
Additionally, the versatility and intangibles Williams offers has benefited the Packers in a number of ways. He has not only played tackle and end on defense, but fullback on offense, too. He has always been a diligent worker, has shown improvement each year, and has been a popular guy in the locker room. There is not much to dislike about him, plus he is just 27 years old.
The Packers have clearly shown they reward players for their proven ability over potential, thus the hesitation with Williams is puzzling.
General Manager Ted Thompson has shown that he believes building a good team means getting as many good players regardless of regardless of position, depth, or circumstance. Drafting quarterback Aaron Rodgers in 2005 and Harrell this past year are good examples of that. He should take the same approach with Williams, because losing a big, talented defensive lineman would be a big mistake.
Matt Tevsh is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at email@example.com.