The Green Bay Packers will have to spend at least $200 million in the next six to 18 months to re-sign receiver Greg Jennings and extend quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews. In order to keep those three stars, general manager Ted Thompson will almost certainly have to let other good players go. For example, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see ascending left guard T.J. Lang sign elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent in 2013. It also wouldn’t be a surprise if cornerback Charles Woodson and linebacker A.J. Hawk were released or forced to take massive pay cuts following this season. But there’s another player whose shaky future in Green Bay will definitely surprise you. Two years after agreeing to a five-year extension worth just over $38 million, cornerback Tramon Williams could very well be on his way out.
Williams parlayed a breakthrough season in 2010 into that lucrative deal, but he struggled in 2011 after injuring his right shoulder on opening night. Normally you wouldn’t be worried about a shoulder injury suffered in September lingering into the next season, but after reading a recent article on FoxSportsWisconsin.com, it’s hard not to be concerned. “We did strength tests on my shoulder (in early June) and it was at about 50 percent when they tested,” Williams told Paul Imig. “It probably was worse during the season. It was bad. I hadn’t done anything on it for a while, trying to heal it up a little bit. I started my rehab process, did that for a couple weeks, then we did the strength test to see where we were. They tested my strong arm, which is my left arm, and then the right arm, and my right arm was significantly weaker than my left arm. And this is my dominant arm, my right arm, so it was weak.”
A weak right shoulder greatly limits Williams’ ability to be physical with wide receivers at the line of scrimmage. And being physical with wide receivers is one of the things that made the former Louisiana Tech star so successful in 2010. The Packers are obviously hoping that the shoulder will continue to get stronger in the coming months. Increased strength, along with a (hopefully) more effective pass rush, should allow Williams to perform better than he did a year ago. But he’ll probably have to return to his Pro Bowl form of 2010 in order to justify the huge raise he’s scheduled to get in 2013. And based on the information in Imig’s story, it’s fair to question whether that’s possible.
Williams is scheduled to make a base salary of $2.3 million this season. That number jumps to $5.9 million ($7.4 million against the cap) in 2013. That’s the type of money a team pays for a star player. Releasing Williams next offseason would save the team $5.9 million in real money and $5 million against the cap. That might not seem like a lot, but every dollar will count when it comes to getting contracts done with Jennings, Rodgers and Matthews. It’s also important to remember that Thompson will have to deal with Jermichael Finley and B.J. Raji in the not too distant future.
Besides his contract, there are other things working against Williams. One is his age. He’ll turn 30 next March, and while Woodson has been defying Father Time for years, the majority of corners – even 100% healthy ones – begin to show signs of decline around that birthday. Another thing working against Williams is the potential depth at the position. Sam Shields looked like a budding star in 2010. Thompson traded up in the second round to draft Casey Hayward in April. And the coaches have been heaping praise on Davon House throughout the offseason. All three of those players are under 26. If at least two of the them prove to be legitimate, it’s difficult to imagine Williams returning in 2013 unless he regains the form that made him arguably the second-best cornerback in the league in 2010.