Is There Slot on Roster for Williams?

Bill Huber

GREEN BAY, Wis. – In the history of professional sports, only Father Time is undefeated. But Tramon Williams has run one heck of a race. Last year, during his age-36 season, he was the oldest defensive back in the NFL to play more than six games. In fact, Williams played in all 16 games for the Green Bay Packers and was good enough to earn one vote to the prestigious Associated Press All-Pro team.

Williams, who turned 37 on March 16, remains unsigned. There are some internal candidates to take over Williams’ duties in the slot but none played as much or as well as Williams last season.

“We all know what Tramon has meant to the organization,” defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said recently. “When we went back and looked at last year’s tape, he was highly effective for us. He’s just that rare player who continues to play at a high level at a position you wouldn’t expect somebody to play even in their 30s, one that requires so much of their legs.”

Playing mostly from the slot but showing the ability to play outside when needed, Williams intercepted two passes and finished third on the team with 11 passes defensed, according to the coaches’ count. He added one forced fumble. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams allowed 40-of-63 (63.5 percent) passing and two touchdowns. Of 81 corners to play 350 coverage snaps, he ranked 22nd with 1.01 yards per coverage snap, according to PFF. By its count, Williams gave up less than 20 receiving yards in eight of 18 games.

Williams, who shifted to safety for the second half of the 2018 season, has played in 199 regular-season games. He’d like No. 200 (and beyond) to come in green and gold, calling Green Bay a “priority option.” Among active players, he ranks third with 34 interceptions.

“I feel like I’m playing solid,” he said late last season. “I don’t like to put too much into it. I just like to get my job done. I feel like as long I’m playing winning football and doing what I need to do, that’s good enough for me. Whether the stats show it or not or things of that nature, it doesn’t really matter. Obviously, everybody wants to get their stats and to be recognized – which is a great thing and I’m no different – but I’m in the business of winning right now in my career. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to do what I can for the team, how they need me to do it. I have been playing well this year.”

Two of the internal options are Chandon Sullivan, who emerged as a quality backup last season, and former second-round pick Josh Jackson, who barely played last season but his “best spot” could be in the slot. Or, the Packers could bring back Williams to see if he can stay ahead of Father Time for another season.

“Obviously, we think very highly of T but we also understand the big picture part of it, the business side of it,” Pettine said. “At this point, we don’t know. It is up in the air. We don’t know how his final chapter is going to be written, whether it’s going to be here, whether it’s going to be with another team or whether he decides to retire. This is a man who does things the right way and should be emulated how he balances his family, his faith his football are second to no one. I think it’s clear how we feel about him but it’s all part of the business end of it.”