It’s no secret that the Eagles need to upgrade the running back position. They had five different running backs take a snap on offense during the season, with the highest amount going to Wendell Smallwood with 29.67% of the snaps.
There are a plethora of names on the free agent market that could interest the team. These names include Le’Veon Bell, Jay Ajayi, Mark Ingram, and Tevin Coleman. But there is one name out there that could provide the team with the elite production they’ve been looking for in a running back, and he hasn’t played since 2015.
Or as you may have called him, “the fantasy handcuff you just HAD to have on your team”.
A fifth round pick out of Florida State in 2015 by the Buffalo Bills, Williams burst on the scene as the top back up to LeSean McCoy.
In 11 games with the Bills as a rookie, Williams rushed 93 times for 517 yards, a fantastic 5.6 yards per carry average. He added seven touchdowns rushing and another two receiving. On 14 targets during the season, Williams caught 11 of them. Although he averaged one catch a game, he was still a threat out of the backfield. Extrapolate his stats over a 16 game season and you get 136 rushes for 752 yards, a 5.5 yards per carry average, and 10 rushing touchdowns. He also tied an NFL record by scoring a rushing touchdown in each of his first six games played.
Those numbers have only been reached once since 2014, LeSean McCoy’s final season, and it was two years ago by LeGarrette Blount (766 yards).
Williams and Blount in the same article? Haven’t seen that since this Bleacher Report article comparing Williams as a prospect to Blount.
Williams is 6’1″, 225 lbs, and ran a 4.48 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine. Size and speed, a great back to be featured in a Doug Pederson offense. Plus his legs are as fresh as can be.
But why is Williams available and what did I mean when I mentioned he hasn’t played since that rookie year?
Although extremely talented, Williams has his demons.
In the 2016 off-season, Williams was suspended four games for violating the NFL Substance Abuse policy. A few weeks later, on August 22nd, the Bills cut Williams.
In October of that season, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed Williams to their practice squad. However, he was hit with a 10 game suspension in November for violating the policy a second time. The Steelers ultimately released Williams in March of 2017.
More trouble came for Williams in July of 2017 when the league suspended him for at least one year for a third violation. He has not played in a game since January 3rd, 2016, 1,145 days ago. The NFL conditionally reinstated Williams a few days ago.
The risk here is if he kept those demons away this time. With another suspension leading to likely banishment, Williams would have to do everything possible to stay clean.
Another risk is his motivation. Prior to his release from Buffalo, Williams showed up to OTAs severely overweight. He blamed this weight gain on his wife’s pregnancy, but he went from 230 lbs to 261 lbs, a weight increase that cannot be blamed on overeating with your pregnant wife.
Could he be past his substance abuse and motivation demons? Sure, and the reward for the Eagles could be great.
Owner Jeffrey Lurie isn’t one to shy away from giving players a second chance. We all remember Michael Vick and the Eagles did do their due diligence last season on Reuben Foster.
In a world where Le’Veon Bell is demanding $50 million in the first two years of his deal and other backs that could cost more than the Eagles could spend, giving a league minimum deal to Williams for him to prove himself could be the second chance Williams needs.