It was no secret that running back Jamaal Williams wanted to return to the Detroit Lions. Williams led the team in rushing last season with 1,066 yards. He is the first Lion to enjoy a 1,000-yard season since Reggie Bush in 2013. Williams also broke Barry Sanders’ franchise record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 17.
Williams expressed his desire to stay in the Motor City in an interview during Super Bowl week.
“I really just want to stay with Detroit, if I can,” he said. “I just really want us to come to a mutual agreement and just get it done and just get back to playing football.”
With the first five days of free agency in the books, Williams is now a former Detroit Lion. The team signed former Bears running back David Montgomery to a three-year deal worth $18 million. In the wake of Detroit acquiring Montgomery, Williams signed with the New Orleans Saints on a three-year $12 million contract.
Williams does not part with Detroit on a sour note.
“I just wanna say thank you to all the Detroit fans and everybody apart of the hidden village of the den,” he said in a Twitter post. “I’ve grown a lot just from those two years and I appreciate every experience I had with every person I came to encounter while I was there.”
Jamaal Williams’ agent fumbled the bag
All offseason, reports indicated that both Jamaal Williams and the Lions had a mutual interest in re-signing for the 2023 season and beyond. Detroit Lions beat reporter, Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press, reported that the Lions made a significant offer to Williams.
“The Lions attempted to re-sign Williams and offered him a contract similar to the one they gave Montgomery, but pivoted to Montgomery as Williams’ agent shopped the market for better deals,” Birkett said in his report.
If Birkett’s reporting is correct, Williams’ agent turned down nearly $6 million per year annually. Instead, his client had to settle for roughly $4 million annually.
Anywhere near a three-year $18 million contract is good money for a veteran running back nearing his 30s. It is a contract that without his agent in the picture, Williams likely would have signed in a heartbeat.
Williams joins a Saints backfield where the future of star running back Alvin Kamara is uncertain. He could find himself as the feature back for a while depending on how Kamara’s court case for battery progresses.
As for the Lions, the team does receive an upgrade at running back. There is no doubt Montgomery is the more talented of the two. Behind a strong Lions offensive line, he should enjoy success running the football in 2023.
For Lions fans, it is bittersweet to see Williams sign elsewhere. The veteran back was a big piece in turning the team’s culture around, and his personality was one of the most endearing on the roster. Jamaal Williams may be in the market for a new agent after his current one cost him not only a good contract but also a place on the team he wanted to return to.