If you were to scour through Avery Williamson’s film, you would wonder why he’s currently jobless as teams enter offseason workouts. But, as we flip the page and microscope Williamson’s fundamental skill set and projection into a defense in need of an aging linebacker with a recent ACL reconstruction, things begin to muddy. There are just not many teams who will bite that bullet.
After missing just one game in his first five seasons (including 75 starts), Williamson suffered a torn ACL in a preseason matchup against the Atlanta Falcons early in 2019, ultimately ending his season, and eventually, his tenure with the New York Jets, as just 15 months after his injury he was shipped off to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a mid-season trade. While his career the last couple of seasons has inherently highlighted the harsh reality that is the NFL and its “what have you done for me lately” mantra, Williamson can play ball, and there’s still MUCH left in the tank as he looks for a new home.
With more than 600 career tackles under his belt, here are three teams who could be in line for Williamson’s services if they eye both an immediate pop-production starter or additional second-level depth to put the final touches on the core of their respective defense.
New England Patriots
While New England spent much of the spring signing every Tom, Dick, or Harry they could find, Williamson’s addition as a late-cycle add could be ideal if the former Steelers linebacker eyes both an opportunity to compete and a chance for playoff football. With some experience working in Pittsburgh’s odd-man front, Williamson’s transition to New England’s similar 3-4 concept-based defensive structure wouldn’t require a massive grace period of adjustment, especially considering his knack for production no matter the alignment he finds himself in.
For an already uber-experienced nucleus of defenders slated to suit up for Bill Belichick’s unit in Week 1, Williamson’s speed, aggressiveness, and elite pursuit in the open field could prove to be a welcomed addition as the Patriots look to compete within one of the most talented divisions in football. Add in the current contract situation and recent play of fourth-year talent Ja’Whuan Bentley, and Foxboro could serve as an ideal home for the 29-year-old Williamson.
Los Angeles Rams
When you begin to dissect the Rams’ roster, it would be hard to ignore the lack of talent and depth currently within the roster at linebacker. Arguably the weakest link to a rather formidable chain, the Rams are sure expecting a lot out of a middle-of-the-road (at best) group from a season ago that also lost outside presence Samson Ebukam and Troy Reeder.
While a heap of optimism surrounds Micah Kiser as he attempts to stay healthy for a full season, the Rams are in need of bodies within the second level as they transition into the aggressive approach of newly minted defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. Williamson, a quick-twitch linebacker with an eerily similar frame to that of Kiser, could be the jolt of lighting the Rams need for a defense expected to be one of the most dominant in football.
Buffalo and general manager Brandon Beane have made a consistent effort over the last couple of years of continuing to add talent, speed, and versatility on defense while maintaining a structure of experienced veterans with young, hungry talent. With Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano headlining the unit, you could argue Williamson wouldn’t be a fit here, but I would argue that stance, and here’s why.
A.J. Klein has offered nice production during his tenure, and the addition of Tyrell Adams has opened eyes at OTAs, but the group could serve well to add a talent like Williamson, who is experienced, proven, and can offer versatility both as a starter or as a depth add on run downs. And, for a unit tasked with keeping tight ends in check, the Bills were a below-average unit in 2020, allowing the most receptions in the league (94), and second-most yards (993). With Williamson’s above-average speed and prior background working in open areas of the second level, his presence in any sort of capacity could be vital as the Bills look to recapture their second consecutive division crown.