When free agency begins in early March, there are a handful of players across the league who could appeal to New England. With the understanding that the status of these players could change because of the franchise or transition tag, here are a few possibilities for the Patriots to consider. We have to stress that all of these guys aren’t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they’re players we think would be a good fit in New England. We’ve already featured C.J. Spiller, Hakeem Nicks, Torrey Smith, Rahim Moore, Charles Clay, Jerry Hughes, Pernell McPhee, Orlando Franklin, Dane Fletcher, Roy Helu, Rey Maualuga, David Harris and Mike Iupati. Today, we wrap things up with Kevin Williams.
Position: Defensive lineman
Age: 34 (August 16, 1980)
Weight: 311 pounds
The skinny: We’ve been down this road before with Williams, who considered retirement last spring before he ultimately decided to sign a one-year, $2.1 million deal with the Seahawks. That was after a brief flirtation with the Patriots, where he told a reporter New England should “look me up.” That led to a sitdown between Bill Belichick and Williams, and while the two sides never consummated the agreement — the Seahawks were apparently a little more enticing — there’s certainly a history there between the two which could come into play this offseason. The five-time All-Pro has spent 12 years in the NFL, 11 with Minnesota and last season with Seattle. The 6-foot-5, 311-pounder has been pretty durable over the course of his career, as he’s only missed 13 regular-season games since entering the league in 2003. Williams has 63 career sacks, including 8.5 in 2008. He’s not the overwhelming presence he used to be, but for a team looking for a rotational veteran to play a role up front, Williams could be that guy.
By the numbers: 445 — The number of snaps Williams played during the regular season for the NFC champions. Williams’ workload was likely heavier than initially anticipated because of an injury to starter Brandon Mebane. While Williams hadn’t played much nose tackle over the course of his career, he stepped in and did well as could be expected when it came to filling Mebane’s role on a situational basis over the course of the 2014 season.
Why it would work: There’s one every year — a massive defensive lineman near the end of his career who catches the eye of Belichick and the Patriots, who hope to squeeze one more good year out of him before he decides to hang them up. It’s a tradition that stretches all the way back to the likes of Anthony Pleasant, Keith Traylor and Ted Washington, and has continued with the likes of Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis, Tommy Kelly and Alan Branch. (Sometimes it works, sometimes, it doesn’t.) Williams could very well be that guy for 2015. Last season, he showed he could work in a semi-reserve role with the Seahawks, and provided he stays healthy, there’s no reason to think he couldn’t fill the same sort of role in New England. Belichick has an affinity for him, and he certainly would be cost-effective. And for Williams — who played in his first career Super Bowl earlier this month after 12 seasons in the league — there’s more of a chance to finish off a career with a ring in New England than most other spots.
Why it might not work: He’ll be 35 before the start of the 2015 season, and there’s the very real likelihood that he’s tired of banging his head against a wall over and over again and would like to enjoy retirement. There’s also the legitimate question of how much he has left in his tank — while he’s been very durable, age and health have to be considered when talking about the possibility of signing someone like Williams at this stage of his career. And ultimately, there’s the question of fit: the Patriots have gotten some very good performances out of their young defensive linemen the last couple of seasons, particularly Sealver Siliga and Chris Jones. Do they want — or even need — to bring in someone like Williams?
Quote: “He went through the roster and basically explained where I could fit in with those guys. They had a lot of injuries and they have some veteran guys coming off of injuries that play tackle, and I would have a chance to compete for a position there. Either way, we’d have a good rotation, and have a chance to win some games.” – Williams, speaking with Sirius XM last June about his meeting with Belichick and the Patriots
Our take: Williams talked about retiring if the Seahawks had beaten the Patriots that night in Glendale, but now, it appears that things are up in the air. As we previously mentioned, the history between Williams and Belichick is there, and Williams would certainly come relatively cheaply. Bottom line? There’s enough familiarity there between the player and the team to think that if it does come together, it wouldn’t be an extended negotiation process. However, if Williams’ is signed, this feels like the sort of agreement that would come closer to the start of camp — as a veteran, he’d probably swing a deal where he’d be excused from a portion of the offseason workout plan.