Offensive lineman Chris Williams
has his third NFL home. (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
On Wednesday morning, the Buffalo Bills announced that they had signed former Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams offensive lineman Chris Williams. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, it's a four-year, $13.5 million deal with $5.5 million guaranteed.
Williams, who was the Bears' first-round pick in 2008, started 38 games at left and right tackle, as well as left guard until he was released by Chicago in October 2012. Signed by the Rams a week later, and re-signed before the 2013 season, Williams started all 16 games at left guard for the Rams last year, allowing five sacks, eight quarterback hits and 28 quarterback hurries in 923 snaps (per Pro Football Focus) in the ultra-competitive NFC West.
"The transition was made, we had some injuries and things early on in 2009 and I ended up kicking inside because of our situation in Chicago," Williams said at his press conference announcing the signing, when asked about the move from tackle to guard. "I was the guy most likely to move and could move the easiest, so we kicked me down and it’s just been kind of in and out since then. Eventually made it my home, it’s something I like to do. I like playing inside, it’s fun. I’d always look for opportunities to play and find my way on the field. Wherever that is, that is where I’m going to be."
MORE COVERAGE: 2014 NFL free agency tracker, grades
The Bills had been looking to shore up the left guard position since the excellent Andy Levitre left to play for the Tennessee Titans before the 2013 season. Doug Legursky and Colin Brown shared duty through the year, combining to allow three sacks, 11 quarterback hits and 31 hurries. Williams had visited the Bills on Wednesday, and it didn't take long for the two sides to come to an agreement. He had also received interest from the Panthers and Texans.
"I think you have to learn how to be a pro and I can’t say I knew how to be a pro coming in to the league when I did," Williams said of his overall development. "I learned a lot of things in Chicago about myself personally and about the game and how everything worked. I learned from all those experiences. I have no regrets and that’s how I am in Buffalo today from all those things that happened in Chicago. I’m just excited to be here and you learn a lot about yourself when God presents things to you in a different way. I’m just excited to have this opportunity and everything that happened in Chicago happened, but now I’m just excited to move on. Whether it’s playing tackle or playing guard or even getting cut. Getting cut was the most humbling experience anybody can have, much less a former first round pick. I learned from all of those experiences."
Williams has never lived up to his athletic potential, though that's partially due to the sub-par coaching he received in Chicago. He gets pushed around too easily at any line position, and he's not consistent when asked to stop pass-rushers at the point of attack. The Rams line was a mixed bag last season, and Williams was at least a bastion of consistency, but not much more. If the Bills are serious about competing in the AFC East sooner than later, they'll need to develop Williams in ways other coaches have not been able to.