I suppose the writing on the wall for a Williams departure has been there for a while. A littany of offseason mistakes to go along with large suspensions and the emergence of some young faces in the Broncos LB corps puts DJ in the tenuous position of being too expensive and expendable. There are some out there that want nothing to do with him, while others view him as an important part to a young and inexperienced linebacking corps. I suppose at this point it would be best to outline the positives and negatives when it comes to evaluating his value to the Broncos and other teams.
+ Athletic player who is system indifferent. Has played many positions in both a 4-3 and 3-4 front.
+ Player that can provide the flexibility to play three downs as he is pretty good in coverage
Overall the best qualities about DJ are his athleticism and ability to play many different LB positions in multiple fronts. On the surface it may seem like a slam dunk for the Broncos to keep him going forward, but here are some of the negatives he brings:
- Questionable character evidenced in many stupid offseason mistakes
- Possible PED use
- Long stretches of suspension that cost him a total of 10 games this past year
- A sizeable contract for a player that was only used situationally
- One mistake away from being suspended for an entire season
While some in Broncos Country will laud his production and note his skillset and versatility, it is a moot point. The Broncos will be cutting ties with him. What we have to decide is if a team would be willing to ship a draft pick off to the Broncos or if the Broncos will cut him without receiving anything in return (besides some more cap room).
Quite frankly, I do not see any trade value for DJ Williams out there. Even if there is interest in him, I don't see the Broncos as having any sort of leverage. Teams know that the Broncos will cut him. Why make the trade? DJ is in the final year of his contract due 6 million in base salary which is 9th highest in the entire NFL amongst linebackers. The only way I see a trade making sense is if a LB needy team knows it can extend and restructure the deal and lessen his base salary and overall cap hit.
In an article not so long ago, Klis outlined a number of teams that would be interested in DJ. Many of these teams are places where old Broncos coaches now reside. Redskins (Shanahan), Texans (Kubiak), Chargers (Mike McCoy), Raiders (Allen), Ravens (Wink), Falcons (Nolan) are all teams that are in one way or another associated with DJ throughout his career. Let's take a closer look at their cap numbers heading into 2013 (via spotrac, updated as of today):
(2013 NFL salary cap set at 123 million)
Redskins: 124.87 million (no space)
Texans: 114.71 million (8.29 million in space)
Chargers: 115.81 million (7.19 million in space)
Raiders: 121.27 million (1.73 million in space)
Ravens: 110.71 million (12.29 million in space)
Falcons: 99.39 million (23.61 million in space)
From these teams let's whittle the field down some. Get rid of Washington and Oakland right away. Neither team is in a position financially to trade for DJ straight up or try and rework a deal to lessen his number. Both need to account for their own free agents, potential free agents, and the upcoming draft class.
Looking at the Texans and Chargers, both have a bit more wiggle room but again you have to account for the previous factors.
The Texans have a slew of LB's set to be free agents in 2013. The ones scheduled to be UFA are Tim Dobbins, Keyaron Fox, Bradie James, Barrett Rudd. Of that group Dobbins and James played the most and even then in primarily back-up and fill in roles. The Texans could look to add DJ based upon his desirable versatility and could immediately fill at the very least a valuable depth role across the board.
The Chargers also have a number of UFA LB....Shaun Phillips, Demorrio Williams, Gary Guyton, Antwan Barnes. If the Chargers are smart, they figure a way to keep Shaun Phillips. Similar story here though, there is familiarity with DJ and some need at LB.
Baltimore is intriguing because of the retirement of Ray Lewis and the uncertainty of Ellerby. But with free agents such as Ed Reed, Paul Kruger, and a slew of 2nd and 3rd tier players of their own in which to sign/let go, my gut feeling is that the Ravens let well enough alone.
Perhaps the most intriguing possibility are the Atlanta Falcons. Tons of cap space, the problem here, they don't have key guys at that position heading out the door.
Atlanta, San Diego, and Houston make some sense for a courtship of DJ Williams. In the end though, like I've said, it would be next to impossible to see a team that knows in all likely hood that he will be cut forking out even a late round draft pick for him. If a deal would get done, it might be similar to the deal Oakland got for Kirk Morrison back in 2010. It basically netted the Raiders a 5th round pick in return.
As for where DJ might eventually end up? Bronco Mike has never cared where a former Bronco has ended up. Just does not matter to me, once they are gone they are gone. However, looking at some other potential landing spaces due to potential losses at that position, the following teams make sense---I'll list the LB's that are UFA this year as well:
Arizona (Groves, Bradley, Lenon....6.33 million in cap space)
Buffalo (Scott, Morrison, Barnett....19.66 million in cap space)
Cincinnati (Howard, Lawson, Maualuga....46.25 million in cap space---not a typo)
Green Bay (Brad Jones....20.65 million in cap space)
N.Y. Giants (Rivers, Boley 4.12 million in cap space)
Of these teams Buffalo, Cincinnati, and to a lesser extent Green Bay are very real possibilities.
There you have it Broncos Country---don't expect the Broncos to trade DJ, he will probably be released. If he is traded it will be to a team with a high need and ample cap space for a late round selection (anywhere from a 5th to a 7th). If (when) he hits the open market (Bronco Mike will no longer care) he could be pursued by the likes of Atlanta, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Houston, or San Diego. What say you MHR---where does DJ end up in 2013?