Mike Williams got a new six-year deal from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday. He then said he could play twenty more seasons. The glow of a lucrative new contract likely served as a multiplier in that estimate – Williams was visibly elated during a press conference held shortly before noon – but the 26-year-old wideout clearly does have many NFL days ahead of him.
He'd like them to all be in red and pewter.
In fact, though he didn't know if Buccaneers General Manager Mark Dominik was going to push for a two-year or a 10-year agreement when negotiations began, Williams knew where his heart was, and would remain.
"This is what I wanted," said Williams. "This is everything I wanted. I wanted to be here, I wanted to stay here. The process is worth it. 'To be a Buc for life,' that’s what I say. I don’t care if it was a two-year deal, I’m a Buc for life. I don’t care what Mark says, I’m going to be a Buc for life. To get this process done, it feels great.”
The fourth-year receiver started out as a fourth-round draft pick in 2010, which means he has been playing under what passes for a modest deal in the NFL. He has produced well beyond what that draft position and that compensation usually gets a team, already ranking in the all-time top 10 in touchdowns in franchise history and producing more than 60 catches every year. He has earned his new deal, and the much-coveted stability in the place he calls his NFL home, through a commitment to his craft.
“Mike is a football junkie," said Dominik. "He lives and breathes it, this is what he’s all about. This is what he does. Mike’s been here through the whole offseason program, he reported to training camp today. He’s been about football and that’s what made it easier for us as an organization. It’s a big commitment from both sides. It’s a tremendous decision by the Glazer family to invest $40 million more into this football team and continue to build this team and keep the young core of talent that we have going."
Added Head Coach Greg Schiano: “We’re blessed to have Mike now, for the long term. The way he plays and practices the game is really important to me. This is a guy who loves football. As I said when we arrived here, we’re looking for guys who are going to do things the right way and love the game of football, not like it. This guy right here, he loves it."
Of course, the Buccaneers' goal in re-upping Williams isn't to reward him for the last three years but to keep him around for what they believe will be even bigger things in the seasons to come.
“Mike has been a consistent football player," said Dominik. "Each year he has caught 60 or more balls. His average per catch has increased. Last year he was sixth in the league in 'explosive catches.' That’s an exciting stat, to think that he continues to get better. The way he plays and the way [fellow starting WR]
Williams needed just four more yards to hit 1,000 last season and just one more touchdown to reach double digits for the second time in three NFL seasons. He averaged a career-high 15.8 yards per catch but that was actually more than three yards behind the average of his teammate, Vincent Jackson. Those two combined for 2,380 yards and 17 touchdowns last year, putting them among the league's best duos, but there is still the sense that Tampa Bay's emerging offense can do more. There are some pretty obvious statistical milestones that Williams could shoot for, but he says his only goal is to help the Bucs win the Super Bowl.
That said, he does think that the strongest aspect of his game can get even better, and that would be his knack for finding the end zone.
"That's what I do, score touchdowns," said Williams, citing a high school game in which he turned seven total catches into six TDs. "To have three touchdowns the whole  season, that's not me, so I felt like I had to get better the next year. Adding Vincent Jackson obviously helped that too, but every year I feel like I've got to get better. Nine touchdowns [in 2012] – I feel like I can get better on that this year."
Whatever new heights Williams finds, in 2013 or even into 2018 or beyond, he plans to do so for Tampa Bay. He's a Buc for life.