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Bust stops here: Bills cut Williams Move saves team $4.9 million on cap

Move over Walt Patulski and Tony Mandarich. You have a new member on the list of the biggest busts in NFL history.

Mike Williams officially joined that infamous company following his release by the Buffalo Bills on Thursday.

The 6-foot-6, 360-pound offensive tackle never came close to living up to the expectations of being the fourth overall selection in the 2002 draft. A starter for 47 of the 51 games in which he appeared, his career was marred by injuries and inconsistent play. He was hyped as a dominant run blocker, but his pass protection skills were often lacking.

"This is something we've been talking about for some time," Bills General Manager Marv Levy said Thursday at the NFL scouting combine. "One of the most difficult and unpleasant parts of coaching or being a general manager is having to tell a player you are going to place him on waivers. But it's time for us to move forward, and we wish him well."

Now that Williams is out, Eric Moulds may not be far behind. The Bills have expressed a desire to keep Moulds, but they haven't spoken to the veteran wide receiver or his representatives.

"No one has contacted us with regard to Eric's status with the team," said Greg Johnson, Moulds' adviser. "Until someone does, our position is he is still under contract with the Buffalo Bills."

Williams and Moulds are the Bills' most expensive players, so releasing them would be the obvious move to save salary cap space. Moulds has a cap figure of $10.85 million, while Williams would have counted $10.81 million against this year's cap.

The Bills saved $4.9 million against the cap by cutting Williams, who was signed through 2007, but he still counts as $5.9 million. Cutting Moulds would save $5.5 million, but the team would still take a $5.3 million cap hit. Moulds is also signed through 2007.

Moulds would have to accept a significant pay cut to remain in Buffalo. But the 10-year pro might want to move on to a team with a better chance to compete for a championship.

"I think Eric has a lot left," Levy said. "We hope we can work something out in a contract restructuring situation with Eric. We would like to retain him."

Williams balked at a pay cut last offseason, but Levy said that was not an issue this time. Williams would have received a $600,000 bonus if he was still on the roster March 3 and was due an additional $3 million July 1.

"It just didn't seem like a very viable thing that could get done," Levy said, "so we didn't go there."

Williams' cap number made it necessary for him and the Bills to part ways, but his performance had a lot to do with it as well.

You won't find many critics of the Bills' decision to draft Williams, though some University of Texas observers questioned Williams' toughness and desire. Even Levy expressed uncertainty about Williams' commitment to the game in the past week. Williams rarely played with the fire and intensity needed to excel in the NFL.

He showed signs of finally turning the corner after coming on strong over the second half of 2004. But he regressed last season, starting just five games in nine appearances, and lost his starting right tackle job to Jason Peters, a converted tight end who had never played the position before.

The Bills tried to move Williams to left guard, but he never took to the position and ended up back on the bench. The experiment ended when a back injury sidelined him for the final five games.

Williams' problems extended off the field. In 2003, he missed a game against Houston after injuring his shoulder when his truck flipped over on his way to the stadium.

He skipped several voluntary minicamp sessions in 2004, citing personal reasons, and was demoted to second-team offense at the beginning of training camp that summer. He then was fined by the team for an unexcused absence from camp. Williams also had lost credibility in the locker room as some teammates didn't think he was motivated to be a great player.

Williams' release is another stain on Tom Donahoe's record as president and general manager. No Bills player taken so high in the draft has failed this miserably since Patulski, a defensive lineman taken No. 1 overall in 1972. Williams may go down as the biggest offensive line flop since Mandarich was drafted second overall by Green Bay in 1989.

"It didn't work out as far as him performing to the level that the team had hoped," Levy said. "Every decision doesn't always work out magnificently."

It is uncertain where Williams' future in the NFL will be. His agent, David Dunn, could not be reached for comment.

Williams may be gone, but he didn't leave empty handed. He made $23 million over four years, including $10.5 million in initial signing bonuses. That's more than quarterback Rob Johnson, who left town with $19.85 million of owner Ralph Wilson's money after four years.


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