The Detroit Lions have had a busy first week of free agency, and elected to make one of the toughest moves in letting running back Jamaal Williams walk.
Williams had been a key player for the Lions the last two seasons, and instead of re-signing him, the Lions simply replaced Williams with David Montgomery, formally of the Chicago Bears.
Montgomery brings a different style to the mix than Williams, but the latter had become a major fan favorite the last two years with the Lions. As a result of that, the decision to move on was likely hard for both parties.
After revealing his decision to sign a reported three-year deal with the New Orleans Saints, Williams also took time to say goodbye to the fans who have cheered him the last two seasons.
“I just wanna say thank you to all the Detroit fans and everybody apart of the hidden village of the den. I’ve grown a lot just from those two years and I appreciate every experience I had with every person I came to encounter while I was there. I appreciate y’all and know the KazeKage always pushing forward with that warrior mindset to be great,” Williams tweeted.
Originally signed away from Green Bay in the 2021 offseason on a two-year deal, Williams paid that deal off in a big way for the Lions. Not only was he a beloved leader inside and outside the locker room, but he enjoyed major production, too.
Williams rushed for 1,667 yards and 20 touchdowns in Detroit, which was a huge total. He became beloved by fans for all these reasons, and is likely to remain beloved even in spite of leaving.
Jamaal Williams Signing With Saints a Surprise
Despite the idea the Lions could re-sign him, it started to seem like the team would be missing out on Williams in free agency. Why? Early in the process, there were a few teams that were circling.
Tyler Dunne of GoLongTV.com revealed the latest on Williams last week and showed how his market evolved. As he reported at the time, there was interest between him and the Lions, but three other teams are lurked from the AFC.
“Free agency nugget to pass along. There’s mutual interest in Jamaal Williams returning to Detroit, but a source told me today that Buffalo, Cincinnati and the New York Jets are all very interested in the running back. Williams led the NFL with 17 rushing TDs last year,” Dunne tweeted.
In the end, New Orleans came out of nowhere to sign Williams, and it was a bit of a stunner move considering they were not one of the original teams cited in the early picture for the runner. Clearly, they managed to blow him away on their pitch.
Notably, this puts Williams firmly in Detroit’s crosshairs in the NFC for 2023. The Lions and Saints will play next season, which means Williams will go against his former team and fans. That will be an intriguing game to remember with this subplot.
Williams Enjoyed Historical 2022 Season
What will Williams bring to New Orleans? Major production. There was nobody more productive on the ground this season in terms of touchdowns in the league than Williams, which has allowed him to make some Lions history not seen in years and decades.
With two touchdowns against Green Bay in Week 18, Williams set the single-season rushing touchdown record in Detroit with 17 scores, surpassing Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. The dagger score came on third-and-goal in the fourth quarter:
As a whole, Williams has a gaudy slash line this year for Detroit. He rushed for 1,066 yards and 17 touchdowns. Additionally, he managed to put up 73 receiving yards for the team. He was Detroit’s leading rusher on the season, and always dependable.
With a big output over the final handful of games, Williams was able to crack the elusive 1,000 yard mark for Detroit, which was huge for a Lions running back given nobody since Reggie Bush had accomplished that feat since 2014.
It’s clear Williams will miss Detroit in a big way, and fans likely feel the same way about him.