Player: Avery Williamson
Position: Inside Linebacker
Experience: 7 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2020 Salary Cap Hit: $1,455,885
2020 Season Breakdown:
Coming off of a torn ACL that kept him out of the game for all of the 2019 season, Avery Williamson played in 15 games with 10 starts across two franchises last year, beginning the season with the New York Jets, with whom he signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2018, producing 120 tackles and three sacks, before being traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers became interested in him for depth after they lost Devin Bush to a torn ACL in the early portions of the season. After Vince Williams dealt with Covid-19 and Robert Spillane suffered a knee injury, however, there was plenty of opportunity for Williamson to get on the field.
In eight games with the Steelers, making four starts, he finished that span with 52 tackles, including three for loss, with a sack, and two quarterback hits. He also had an interception and three passes defensed, along with 49 more tackles, in seven games (six starts) before the trade.
What’s notable is that he didn’t have much of a role once Spillane returned from his knee injury in time for the postseason. He only logged 13 snaps in their playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns, and failed to register a statistic while doing so.
Free Agency Outlook:
Williamson was a reasonably hot commodity as a mid-level free agent back in 2018. The Steelers showed interest in him then, but the Jets offered him more than they were willing or able to give him. When all was said and done, they rented him for half a season for a little under $1.5 million.
Now the question is what comes next. Will they be interested in pursuing him to retain his services, and what would it cost—would they switch out Williams and his $4 million base salary for a player they may believe to be more athletic?
Given his 2019 knee injury and the mixed back of the 2020 season, it’s not clear how Williamson’s market value will be reshaped the second time around. It’s certainly possible that he doesn’t command big money, and not entirely outside of reason that he could even bee within price range for Pittsburgh.
If not, though, then he could at least put them in the position of recouping a compensatory draft pick for him in 2022, should he ultimately sign somewhere else. However, I’ve seen his projected value to be in the neighborhood of more than $7 million per season. I think that’s higher than it will be, but even half of that might be too robust to keep him in Pittsburgh.