For the first time in three years, Cadillac Williams is free to use his spring and summer months honing his game rather than slogging through a grueling rehab process. After an inspirational comeback season in 2009, the sixth-year Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back is ready to take care off business on the practice field.
Williams had one small piece of business to attend to off the field, as well, and he did so on Wednesday by signing a one-year tender offer to remain with the Buccaneers in 2010. As a restricted free agent, Williams had received the tender offer in March, giving the team a right-of-first-refusal on any contract offers he received from other teams as well as the right to draft-pick compensation if he signed elsewhere.
As was the case with all of the league's restricted free agents, however, the window for Williams to negotiate with other teams ended one week before the 2010 draft. After that date, Williams could only deal with the Buccaneers and, as almost restricted free agents eventually do, he chose to return by simply accepting his tender offer.
Williams was the Buccaneers' leading rusher in 2009, an impressive feat given that he had played in only 10 games over the previous two seasons combined thanks to a pair of very serious knee injuries. The first mishap, suffered four games into the 2007 season, was particularly damaging and led to roughly 14 months of recovery before he returned for the last six weeks of 2008. Just as he was hitting his stride again in December of '08, Williams sustained the second knee injury in the season finale, requiring surgery and another round of rehab.
Following the 2008 season, the team signed coveted free agent running back Derrick Ward, giving the Bucs a full backfield with Ward, Williams and the team's leading rusher in 2007, Earnest Graham. The exact timetable for Williams return was unknown in March, when Ward was added, but by training camp the veteran Buccaneer was running at full speed. He earned the starting job and eventually carried 211 times for 823 yards and four touchdowns, all team highs. Williams played in all 16 games of a season for the first time in his career and also caught 28 passes for a career-high 217 yards, scoring the first three receiving touchdowns of his career.
The fifth overall pick in the 2005 draft, Williams won the NFL's Rookie of the Year award in his first season with a marvelous 1,178-yard campaign. Despite seeing his career repeatedly interrupted by injuries since, Williams ranks fifth on the team's all-time rushing chart with 3,240 yards on 843 carries.
Williams and Trueblood are the latest two restricted free agents to re-sign with the Buccaneers, joining linebacker Barrett Ruud and wide receivers Maurice Stovall and Mark Bradley.
Rookie Line Switch
Shortly after the conclusion of the Buccaneers' rookie mini-camp on Sunday, May 3, the team made a pair of roster moves, swapping out two rookie offensive lineman.
Michael Shumard, a 6-5, 301-pound guard out of Texas A&M was claimed off waivers from the Denver Broncos and Florida A&M tackle Rob Okeafor was released. Okeafor had originally been signed as an undrafted free agent on April 28.
Shumard started for three seasons at Texas A&M, splitting time between guard and left tackle. In 2009, he opened 11 games, three at guard and eight at tackle, and helped the Aggies put up just over 465 yards of total offense per game, including 190.4 rushing yards per outing. Shumard was also a first-team Academic All-Big 12 choice as a senior.