The Detroit Lions need safety help, but is Marcus Williams really an ideal target in free agency?
As the Detroit Lions head into the teeth of the offseason, with the Senior Bowl next week and free agency coming in March before April’s draft, there are plenty of needs to fill. On the defensive side, safety stands out as one that could become critical quickly.
Detroit’s top safety, Tracy Walker, is a free agent. Re-signing him appears to be a priority, and he has said good things about wanting to be back, but there’s definitely a scenario where he lands elsewhere.
The writers over at USA TODAY’s NFL Wire sites have combined to make a list of one free agent each team should want to sign this offseason. Repeats were allowed, and Jeff Risdon of The Lions Wire indeed targeted a safety for the Lions–Marcus Williams.
Detroit Lions free agency rumors: Marcus Williams an ideal fit?
Here’s Risdon’s case for Williams:
"Detroit is in dire need of help at safety with starters Tracy Walker and Dean Marlowe both hitting free agency. Williams would be a major upgrade over each. His experience with Lions’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn in New Orleans makes him an easy schematic fit, and his playmaking ability in coverage is something the Lions desperately covet in the back end of the defense."
Williams is probably still best-remembered for his inexplicable blunder in the Saints’ playoff loss to the Vikings at end of his rookie season (“The Minneapolis Miracle”). But he has developed into a good player, with two interceptions in each of his five seasons and 28 pass breakups over the last three. This year, per Pro Football Reference, he allowed a 48.8 percent completion rate in his coverage and he set a career-high with 74 total tackles.
With a nod to Aaron Glenn being the Saints’ defensive backs coach for five seasons before coming to Detroit as defensive coordinator, Williams sure looks like a great fit for the Lions.
But this is where it might get tough. Williams is set to cash in as a free agent, and the Saints’ cap situation practically guarantees he’ll be signing elsewhere. Spotrac has his market value at $13.5 million per year off the top, with a bump to $14.2 million with a final calculated contract value (a six-year deal) after adjusting for comps. Over The Cap has lower valuation numbers for Williams, roughly in the $10-$10.5 million range per year.
Williams is a good player, and he’d be a scheme fit if he reunites with Glenn in Detroit. But paying him like a top-five safety in the NFL (based on AAV) is a step too far. And it’d be a bad allocation of resources, as the Lions keep trying to build a roster that’ll have staying power.