Player: DeAngelo Williams
Position: Running Back
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2016 Salary Cap Hit: $2,565,000
2016 Season Breakdown:
DeAngelo Williams was heralded as a minor hero for salvaging the Steelers’ season in 2015, during which they managed to win their first playoff game since 2010. That was in spite of the fact that he ended up getting injured in the regular-season finale and wasn’t even available for the playoff win.
He wasn’t available for much of the 2016 season either after dealing with a knee injury that required an operation and saw him sidelined for almost half the year. We also saw him fairly limited in effectiveness outside of the opening game in Washington.
Serving as the starter for the first three games due to a suspension for a certain someone whose issues and injuries have made Williams perhaps the most important backup in recent Steelers history, Williams had one of the best games of his career in rushing for 143 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, with another 26 yards on six receptions.
He ran for nearly 100 the following week, but less efficiently, on 32 carries, though he added another 38 yards through the air, plus a receiving touchdown. The season opener was the only game in which he had a respectable yards-per-carry figure though. He only rushed for at least three yards per carry one other time, including the playoffs, all year.
Williams did show a bit of life in the AFC Championship game despite a rather poor yards-per-carry figure, being especially effective in the passing game in open space, but I do think that his days are numbered as an effective NFL running back.
Free Agency Outlook:
The Steelers paid Williams $4 million over the past two seasons. His contract was structured in such a way, however, that his cap hit in 2016 was more than $1 million greater than his 2015 cap hit, during which he accounted for a bargain value of $1.4 million based on what he was called upon to do.
The veteran running back’s body, as well as his body of work, did not hold up as well in his second season with the team, as a mid-season knee injury required a minor operation and saw him sidelined for a total of seven games. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry while starting 10 games in 2015. That figure dropped a full yard in nine games, with four starts.
Williams will be 34 the next time he touches the football in a game. He has had injury issues, some significant, in each of the past three seasons. I would be very cautious about whatever deal I would offer him if I were the Steelers, and would probably not try to outbid another suitor, as much as he might have meant to the 2015 season.
I see the proverbial wheels coming off, and would not want to be on the hook for much more than the veteran minimum at this point, but he is no doubt looking for more than that. I think the Steelers should be looking for their next backup in the draft, with Karlos Williams as a possible Plan B.