Here's the main reason why: Last July, the Detroit Lions handed defensive tackle Cory Redding a seven-year contract worth about $49 million, including $16 million guaranteed, according to reports. That made him one of the highest-paid defensive linemen in the National Football League, though, he is not living up to his end of the deal this season.
Redding was coming off the 2006 season where he had eight quarterback sacks in the last 11 games and a career high for tackles – 70. Williams, who just finished his fourth NFL season, is a year younger, about the same size, and a ton better than Redding. Williams had a career-high 51 tackles last season in just nine starts. He played in all 16 games, but played behind Johnny Jolly earlier in the season till Jolly injured his shoulder in late November.
If Redding, who had just one sack in 2007, received a $49 million deal, Williams probably will be commanding a similar or better deal.
Williams, who also can play end, has had seven sacks in each of the past two seasons, and is solid against the run. So, why not re-sign him? Green Bay probably would love to, but with Jolly, Ryan Pickett, Justin Harrell and Colin Cole on board, look for Williams to hit the jackpot with another team. The Packers have pumped a lot of money into the defensive line in recent seasons by giving contract extensions to defensive ends Cullen Jenkins ($16 million) and Aaron Kampman ($20 million). In 2006, the Packers gave Pickett a $15 million deal. Last year, they used the No. 1 pick in the draft on Harrell.
If the Packers do not pursue Williams, they should at least try to lock up Cole for a few more seasons. Cole is a restricted free agent and may draw interest from other teams because he entered the league as an undrafted free agent. Cole is a solid backup tackle, and was higher on the depth chart than Harrell till he wound up on injured reserve with a broken arm late November. If the Packers give Cole the lowest tender as a restricted free agent, another team could sign him to an offer sheet. If the Packers opt not to match the offer, they get nothing in return.
For now, it seems as if Williams is as good as gone. Though the Packers have a lot of room under the salary cap, they seem more likely to use the money elsewhere on their roster, or for next fall. For example, extending running back Ryan Grant's contract. With that in mind, the Packers should let Williams walk and focus on re-inforcing other positions that are not as deep in talent as the interior defensive line.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.