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No hidden agenda to timing of Williams' release

Posted Mar 8, 2012

Look for the Chiefs to address depth at inside linebacker through the draft or free agency

One of the theories floating around Kansas City is that the Chiefs released veteran linebacker Demorrio Williams in order to clear additional cap space for the acquisition of former Colts QB Peyton Manning.

The premise of the theory is based off the timing of the transaction.

Kansas City had yet to release any players this off-season and, seemingly out of the blue, saved approximately $1.7 million in cap space by parting ways with Williams on Tuesday afternoon. Hours later, the Colts revealed their intention to release Manning.

Did the Chiefs know something?

Of course the Chiefs did. And so did everyone else who at least casually follows the NFL. Manning’s release was imminent before his $28 million roster bonus kicked in on March 8th. This was no secret.

However, the Chiefs decision to jettison Williams had nothing to do with the timing of Manning’s expected release. The timing of Williams’ release was more about respect for a veteran than anything else.

Williams had remained a good soldier even though his role in Kansas City had changed dramatically over the past two seasons. Only seven months separated Williams from finishing the 2009 season as the Chiefs leading tackler to being a player who barely got on the field outside of special teams snaps.

Though it was an unpopular decision with the team’s fan base, former head coach Todd Haley and defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast elevated Williams into a starting role over Derrick Johnson when the Chiefs transitioned into a 3-4 defense prior to the 2009 season. The two linebackers had started beside one another a season prior when Kansas City operated out of a 4-3 base.

A fierce training camp battle ensued the following summer with Johnson re-gaining his starting role over Williams. But Williams’ demotion wasn’t for a lack of production. His preseason was impressive. Johnson’s just happened to be better.

Despite a solid summer, Williams was relegated to a reserve role for the first time since his rookie season with Atlanta in 2004. Williams, however, didn’t say a word. He accepted his role on special teams.

As Johnson’s play continued to elevate, there were games that Williams wouldn’t see a single defensive snap. He made no starts for the team from 2010-11 and recorded just 25 tackles in 28 games.

Williams had recorded a team-leading and career-high 142 tackles in 2009.

Regardless, Williams remained a good teammate. Though he may not have been happy about his reduced role, Williams accepted it. He also became one of the team’s more reliable special teams performers.

It was clearly time to move on given the makeup of Kansas City’s roster. Williams was entering the final year of a five-year, $16 million contract he signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2008.

Williams’ release was a business decision, but the timing was about respect. The Chiefs wanted to give the veteran a full opportunity to enter free agency in its entirety.

Financially, the Chiefs are in a favorable cap position with or without Williams’ contract off the books.

Moving forward, look for the Chiefs to address depth at inside linebacker through the draft or free agency. The team was living on the edge throughout most of the 2011 season with no true backup to “Mike” linebacker Jovan Belcher.

Though the depth chart officially listed Williams as the backup to both inside positions, the Chiefs would have shifted Johnson to the strong-side had Belcher suffered an injury. Internally, Williams was viewed only as a weak-side linebacker. Special teams ace Cory Greenwood is in the same boat.

Given Johnson’s career year, an injury forcing the play-maker into a “Thumper” role would have been a blow to the team’s defensive makeup.

One of the reasons the Chiefs signed Brandon Siler last summer was because of his ability to play both of the inside linebacker positions. When Siler went down with a torn Achilles tendon in training camp, depth at the position took a significant hit.

In three drafts under GM Scott Pioli the Chiefs have yet to draft an inside linebacker. This might be the year.

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