The Jaguars addressed their need for depth and competition on their offensive line by signing Mike Williams on Tuesday morning. Williams was the fourth pick of the 2002 draft and was considered a can't-miss tackle prospect.
"We got a powerful, athletic offensive lineman. We'll give him an opportunity to compete at right tackle and possibly some at guard," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said of Williams, who visited Alltel Stadium on Monday.
Buffalo selected Williams out of Texas in '02. He was expected to become the cornerstone of the Bills' offensive line for the long-term future, but Williams' career came apart last season when he fell into disfavor with coach Mike Mularkey. Williams struggled to deal with an illness in his family, causing his weight to soar over 370 pounds and his conditioning to decline.
Williams, 6-6, was at 360 pounds for Monday's visit with the Jaguars. Del Rio said he wants Williams to play in the 340-350 range.
"This is an opportunity for him to get his past behind him and move forward with a fresh start here in Jacksonville," Del Rio said. In his interview on Monday, Williams impressed Del Rio with a new resolve.
If Williams is dedicated to righting his career, he could become a major free-agent acquisition for the Jaguars. Del Rio isn't looking to give his offensive line a make-over, but he needed to find a player who could present a distinct challenge at two positions. Williams is a veteran right tackle who can also play guard.
"I still like our offensive line but I recognize the need to play better. This guy gives us legitimate competition on the offensive line," Del Rio said.
"That's a great signing," former Bills president Tom Donahoe told jaguars.com. "The media (in Buffalo) keep describing him as a bust. He's not a bust. This past year he had some injury problems that set him back. He's like all young offensive linemen. His first couple of years he felt his way; 2004 was his best year. Jim McNally (offensive line coach) said on numerous occasions (Williams) was as good as any big man he's ever coached."
Donahoe drafted Williams in '02 and remains as convinced now as he was then that Williams can be a star player in the league.
"If you wanna run the football, he's the guy you want on your offensive line. He's a dominating run-blocker when he's healthy. He mashes guys. He knocks guys 10 yards off the ball," Donahoe said.
"This is an outstanding signing. What got him in the doghouse last year are the injuries. He was getting into the big years of his contract. They were too high. If Mike's healthy, he will definitely upgrade their line. He's young and has a lot of football ahead of him," Donahoe added.
Williams sustained a high-ankle sprain early last season, followed by a back injury that erased what was left of the season.