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Vince Williams’ Job Application: ‘Who Needs A Goon?’

It was a bit of a sad day yesterday, certainly within the sphere of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Not only did it herald the predictable departure of multiple pending unrestricted free agents, it also marked the release of one of the team’s longest-tenured players remaining, after inside linebacker Vince Williams’ contract was terminated in a salary cap-saving measure that saves the team more than $3 million in space.

According to Jeremy Fowler, Williams told the reporter that the termination had been in the works for days, and one wonder what that entails—or implies. Could it be that the front office approached him about taking a pay cut? While it would not save them as much money, even if taking his salary all the way down to the minimum, it certainly would have been nice to be able to keep him.

But Williams was already scheduled to play for just $4 million this year. What if they asked him to cut that in half—or more, down to the minimum of not much more than $1 million? He wouldn’t be the first player to turn down a pay cut with the alternative being a dismissal. But this is purely speculative: there has been, I stress, no reporting about his possibly being approached for a pay cut.

But he is now approaching potential employers, and he offered one hell of a sales pitch the way only he can. After signaling the night before that his release was pending on Twitter, he offered another post today, inquiring about a job elsewhere: Damn well…who needs a goon?”, he asked.

‘Goon’ is certainly a term Williams has fully embraced over the years, and captures the physicality and energy with which he plays the game. But while he may be a ‘goon’ between the whistles, he is a leader and, to invoke a Tomlinism, an energy-bringer who would be a service to many locker rooms around the league.

It is because he plays like a goon, though, that so many Steelers fans loved him, and I hope will continue to do so even outside of the uniform. I’m certain that if it were his choice, he no doubt would have opted to finish his entire career in Pittsburgh, and I’m hoping that he will one day retire a Steeler.

Football like any other is a nasty business when it comes to money, and when your business is limited by a salary cap—in the name of keeping an even playing field between 32 teams with varied real-world financial resources—it can get downright cut-throat. I’m sure nobody in this relationship wanted it to end. But when you study the roster—and you look at the cap number—it was, sadly, predictable, if not inevitable.

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