On Friday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced that they have signed wide receiver Mike Williams, the team's fourth-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, to a four-year deal.
Williams' agreement means he now counts against the 80-man offseason roster limit, and the team thus released guard Michael Shumard on Friday as well.
Williams is the first of the Buccaneers' nine draftees to reach contract agreement and, out of the 255 players drafted by all the teams in April, one of just 20 to sign so far. The majority of this year's draftees are likely to sign in July, closer to the start of training camp.
Williams, however, was eager to get his deal done much sooner than that.
"I love this game, so I urged my agent, Hadley Engelhard, to reach an agreement quickly," he said. "I am focused on the opportunity to contribute to the team and am very excited to be a Tampa Bay Buccaneer."
The 6-2, 212-pound Williams is clearly intent on making the most of that opportunity, and now he has guaranteed he won't miss a minute of training camp or any of the team's preparations. That focus fits neatly into the Bucs' evaluation of the young man, which judged him to be a player who cares deeply about the game. Shortly after Tampa Bay selected Williams with the third pick of the fourth round (101st overall), General Manager Mark Dominik had this to say about his team's newest playmaker: "He's passionate about football."
Williams has certainly attacked the Buccaneers' practice field with passion in the weeks that have followed the draft, quickly emerging as a standout performer. He is expected to be in the thick of the competition for playing time this year among a rejuvenated receiving corps, along with fellow 2010 draft pick Arrelious Benn.
Williams appeared in 29 games and made 22 starts over three seasons at Syracuse. He finished with 133 catches for 2,044 yards and 20 touchdowns, averaging more than 70 receiving yards per game. That tenure included a stretch of 27 consecutive games in which Williams caught at least one pass. He finished tied for second on the school's all-time touchdown receptions list, just two behind record-holder Rob Moore. Williams scored 10 times in 2007, tying the team's all-time single-season mark.
Shumard was originally claimed off of waivers from Denver on May 12.