By John Boyle
Two seasons ago, Mike Williams was the Seahawks top receiver, and one of the NFL’s best comeback stories. On Friday, however, Williams’ tenure in Seattle came to an end with the team announcing his release.
“We would like to thank Mike for his contributions over the past two seasons and we wish him well in the future,” General Manager John Schneider said in a press release.
The fact that Williams won’t be a part of the 2012 Seahawks isn’t a huge surprise. His 2011 season was cut short by a broken ankle, but even before the injury, he was far less productive as a pass catcher than he was when he led the team in receiving 2010.
In that 2010 season, Williams, a former No. 10 overall pick turned NFL washout, came back after a two-year hiatus from the league, and was an unlikely success story, catching 65 passes for 751 yards. He signed a three-year extension following the 2010 season, but as it turned out, had only one season remaining in Seattle.
Williams was unable to participate in offseason workouts while recovering from that injury, but Pete Carroll said following the team’s last team workout that Williams would likely be ready for training camp. The timing of the release could coincide with when Williams was able to pass a physical, something he would have to do before the team could release him unless he agreed to an injury settlement. Williams was not only competing for a roster spot with other receivers; the addition of tight end Kellen Winslow also hurt Williams’ chances of returning. While the two technically play different positions, Winslow and Williams are both similar players who are something a of a hybrid between a traditional receiver and tight end.
With or without Williams, the battle for roster spots and playing time already figured to be one of the most intriguing position battles aside from Seattle’s three-man quarterback competition. While Sidney Rice is a lock to start, assuming he is healthy, the battle for the other starting job is wide open. Doug Baldwin should remain the Seahawks’ slot receiver, a role in which he thrived as a rookie in 2011. Golden Tate is now likely the front runner to be Seattle’s other starting receiver, but a number of other players could push him for that spot. The Seahawks will have a battle for both playing time and roster spots beyond Rice, Tate and Baldwin, one that will included Ben Obomanu, Kris Durham, Deon Butler, Ricardo Lockette and perhaps a couple of undrafted rookies such as Lavasier Tuinei and Phil Bates.