The Kansas City Chiefs invested heavily into revamping its running back room last offseason with the addition of first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Although the 21-year-old didn’t live up to the heightened expectations placed upon his shoulders due to game flow and injuries, the future of the position is strong with a healthy CEH leading the way.
On Tuesday, the Chiefs shook up the depth chart behind him, releasing Super Bowl LIV hero Damien Williams.
Parting ways with the soon-to-be 29-year-old, as first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and confirmed by agent Ian Greengross, will net the team nearly $2.2 million in salary cap space this offseason while adding a modest $533K dead cap hit to the payroll. According to Spotrac, Kansas City’s projected salary cap space presently sits just north of $30 million, and that includes Monday’s megadeal for Joe Thuney.
The Athletic’s Nate Taylor is also reporting that Williams was “stunned” to learn of his release.
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Williams Opted out to Care for Cancer-Stricken Mother
Head coach Andy Reid revealed before Super Bowl LV that the team had been in contact with Williams throughout the year after the six-year veteran opted out last season out of precaution for his mother, who is battling Stage 4 cancer, his wife Lilly and young daughter Dillon.
“It was hard,” Williams told SiriusXM NFL Radio last July, via CBS Sports. “My mom is my rock, my everything … My mom, she just was like, ‘Whatever decision (you make), I’m behind you.’ … Football is my life, especially coming off a championship and wanting to do a repeat — which, you know, I know they’re gonna handle that. But at the end of the day, this was something personal.”
His time in Kansas City will be remembered fondly, especially for his 133-yard, two-touchdown MVP-worthy showing in the team’s Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers in 2019-20.
Darrel Williams Earns a Raise
Damien Williams isn’t the only Chiefs running back with the Williams surname in the news.
According to Herbie Teope of The Kansas City Star, fellow backup Darrel Williams was re-signed on a new one-year contract with a maximum value of $2.13 million — the equivalent of the low-round tender offered to Andrew Wylie on Tuesday — along with $930K in guaranteed money. That’s a notable bump from the $575K average annual salary the fourth-year back took home between 2018-20.
The Chiefs and Williams have since confirmed the reunion on Twitter.
Williams’ Presence Makes Bell Expendable
With Edwards-Helaire penciled in as RB1 for the foreseeable future, the Chiefs still have capable backups in Williams and Darwin Thompson to work in behind him. Noticeably absent from that list is Le’Veon Bell, who is set to hit the free agent market when it officially opens on Wednesday.
With the running back market off to a slow start again in 2021, Bell could still be a cheap veteran option for the Chiefs, but the smart money is on, well, not overspending on a former All-Pro who is approaching 30 years old, hasn’t averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry since 2016 and is showing at least some signs of slowing down.
As Pro Football Network noted, Bell will still likely be seeking an opportunity to start or a similar rotational role with a contender, potentially putting teams such as the Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins in the mix.
Williams Has Proven Capable in Limited Action
It has been tough sledding for Darrel Williams’ path to meaningful touches, but he has made the most out of the limited action he has seen, peaking in this year’s AFC Divisional and Championship games with 155 combined scrimmage yards and a touchdown on 31 touches. Although, some Chiefs fans may still have a sour taste in their mouth for Williams’ inability to hang on to this insanely acrobatic pass from Patrick Mahomes in last month’s Super Bowl.
That drop aside, Williams’ 4.3 yards per carry average in 2020 was a career-best and appears to have helped earn him a potential uptick in playing time next season, if his new deal is any indication. For his career, the 5-foot-11, 224-pounder has totaled 354 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 93 carries to complement 36 catches, 310 yards and a pair of scores through the air.
All in all, the Chiefs could do a lot worse than the LSU tandem as their top two running backs in 2021.
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Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!