The Detroit Lions have reshaped their roster in a major way this offseason, leading many to wonder what the next step is in terms of potential future releases.
Detroit has already cut several veterans from the roster, including veteran defenders Danny Shelton, Christian Jones and Desmond Trufant. Now, many believe that another shoe could be set to drop in the form of defensive tackle Nick Williams.
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In a May 15 Bleacher Report roundup, writer Alex Kay highlighted the best player who could be cut from every current roster around the NFL. For Detroit, Williams was the choice.
The reason had a lot to do with simple depth for the team.
A plethora of veterans have already exited Detroit as part of the club’s full-fledged rebuild this offseason, but one player who has stuck around is defensive tackle Nick Williams.
The Lions already reduced Williams’ base salary from $4.1 to $1.3 million, but the team can still save the rest of the non-guaranteed money and free up a roster spot for a developmental player by releasing the 31-year-old.
Although Detroit isn’t hurting for cap space, a club with no illusions about contending this year hardly needs a defensive lineman on the wrong side of 30. Williams has been average at best during his career, and getting rid of him now will allow the Lions to more quickly find the future of the position.
Lions’ Defensive Line a Sudden Strength
Heading into OTA workouts and mandatory minicamp in June, Detroit suddenly has depth at defensive tackle. That includes a pair of rookies joining via the NFL draft in second-rounder Levi Onwuzurike and third-rounder Alim McNeill, to go along with Michael Brockers, who was acquired in a March 17 trade with the Los Angeles Rams.
While Brockers could be expected to move around along the defensive line, Williams may find himself on the losing end of a pure numbers game as general manager Brad Holmes and company begin to narrow the 90-man offseason roster.
Anyone could forgive Williams for thinking he was perhaps safe after the first round of changes this offseason. The Lions elected to bring back Romeo Okwara and did not move to cut Trey Flowers, while Williams stuck in spite of being asked to take a pay cut. With the additions of Onwuzurike and McNeill, as well as Brockers and Charles Harris in free agency, the Lions suddenly have a defensive line that could wind up near the top of the NFL in terms of depth.
After not having much depth up front for years, that would be ironic, to say the least.
Williams Looks to Repeat Career-Best 2019 Season With Bears
Williams, a seven-year veteran, has bounced around the NFL throughout his career. He originally entered the league as a seventh-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013, and by 2014, had joined the Kansas City Chiefs. After spending two-plus seasons there, Williams departed for the Miami Dolphins and spent a season there before signing with the Chicago Bears in 2018.
After putting up minuscule counting stats at every prior stop, Williams came into his own with the Bears in 2019, setting career-highs in nearly every category, including combined tackles (42), quarterback hits (nine), sacks (6.0) and fumble recoveries (two) in 16 games (five starts).
Known for his ability as a pass rush disruptor, Williams might not offer the Lions much against the run, but he can help collapse the pocket as his 2019 numbers prove. The hope is with more playing time, the 31-year-old can continue to play a big role and come into his own in Detroit. This past season, Williams put up just 1.0 sack and 23 total tackles despite starting 13 of 14 games. So obviously, the team could stand to use more from the journeyman lineman.
Currently in the second season of a two-year, $10 million free agent contract signed last March, 2021 could be a make-or-break season for Williams if he does stay in Detroit. The jury remains out on whether or not he’ll get the chance to do so in the end.