The Buffalo Bills have shown a willingness under General Manager Doug Whaley and coach Doug Marrone to provide a second chance to players with checkered pasts.
They did so again Friday, in the process bringing home a native Western New Yorker.
The Bills executed a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for receiver Mike Williams, the former Riverside High School star whose once-blossoming professional career has been sidetracked by off-the-field issues. In exchange, the Bills gave the Buccaneers their sixth-round pick in May’s NFL draft, according to ESPN. The trade is contingent on Williams reporting to the Bills and passing a physical.
It’s a relatively small price to pay – provided the change of scenery helps the 26-year-old sort out the issues that led to the Buccaneers trading him less than nine months after he signed a six-year contract extension worth up to more than $40 million.
“Mike Williams is a competitive, tough wide receiver who has the size and athleticism to add competition to our receiver position group,” Marrone said in a statement released by the team.
Williams is entering his fifth year in the NFL. He played just six games in 2013 before going on injured reserve because of a torn hamstring. In Williams’ first three years, however, he made 193 catches for 2,731 yards and 23 touchdowns.
But the Bucs were willing to give up that type of production because of Williams’ off-the-field issues.
From June to September of last year, at least five calls to 911 were placed from Williams’ rental home in Lutz, Fla. The Tampa Bay Times reported on Wednesday that Williams is being sued by an insurance company for alleged damages to that rental property. That follows a previous lawsuit brought against him by his landlord, in which Williams agreed to pay $43,000 for damage to the home.
Last month, Williams was stabbed in the left thigh by his brother, Eric Baylor, at the receiver’s home in Avila, Fla. Baylor was charged with aggravated battery and domestic violence.
In December, Williams was charged with criminal mischief and trespassing for knocking a girlfriend’s door off its hinges. Last week, he entered a pre-trial diversion program that could lead to the charges being dropped.
Williams was arrested for DUI his rookie season in 2010, when the Buccaneers drafted him in the fourth round, but the charges were dropped.
Combined, those issues proved to be too much for new Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht and coach Lovie Smith to deal with.
“We thank Mike for his contributions to the Buccaneers over the last four seasons,” Licht said in a statement Friday. “At this time, we felt it was best for both sides.”
Joining the Bills makes for an odd reunion between Williams and Marrone, his coach at Syracuse. In 2009, Marrone’s first year with the Orange, Williams was either kicked off the team for off-field behavior, or quit.
“We feel Mike is a player who has the ability to help our team improve. With regard to our time at Syracuse, I feel that is in the past for both of us,” Marrone said. “Today, Mike has an opportunity to get a fresh start to his career here in his hometown and regain his form as a productive player in the National Football League.”
The Bills’ official Twitter feed shared a photo Friday night of the coach picking up Williams at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
The 6-foot-1, 212-pound Williams has 215 catches for 2,947 yards with 25 touchdowns in 54 games (52 starts) in his career.
Williams is the second Buffalo native to join the Bills’ roster this offseason, after the team signed cornerback Corey Graham as a free agent last month.