Buying low on a player works best when said player later becomes a sell high candidate. That doesn’t mean he has to be sold and traded again, but rather it simply means his value has risen high above expectations after your purchase at a bargain price.
When the Bills acquired Mike Williams for a mere sixth-round pick today, that became the goal. In a sense the move mirrors the sort of trade or signing often pulled off by the New England Patriots, Buffalo’s division rival. Bill Belichick has frequented the scrap heap for players who are either fading veterans (Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco) or discarded due to their numerous red flags (Aqib Talib). This Williams acquisition is the latter, and this fall we’ll learn if he’ll continue his flameout path, or if the Bills will receive high-end production after they essentially made him their sixth-round pick in this draft.
Football players are commodities in that sense, and they especially are from mid-March onwards. For the Bills this specific purchase fills a specific need: bulk. Between Robert Woods, Stevie Johnson, Marquise Goodwin, T.J. Graham, and even C.J. Spiller out of the backfield, blazing speed isn’t at all an issue in the passing game. What they need is size, and the ability to be a red-zone magnet while winning the battle for contested balls.
Williams may have fallen out of favor in Tampa due to both injuries and off-field problems, but catching footballs in the area where points are scored has never been a problem with his 6’2″, 212 pound frame and leaping ability. Of his 215 career catches over 54 games, 25 of them have been touchdowns, including a single-season high of 11 during his first NFL season when he led all rookies in scoring, receiving yards, and receptions. Zeroing in further on that rookie season, it was a year when Williams had only six games when he didn’t score a touchdown.
The 2010 Williams is clearly the receiver Buffalo hopes it just purchased. Not so much the guy who regressed the following season with only 11.9 yards per catch, and definitely not the guy who couldn’t stay on the field last year. At a scheduled $1.2 million in 2014 his salary is dirt cheap, and he provides the Bills with draft flexibility in the first round to focus on improving their offensive line (Jake Matthews?) and then wait to get move depth at wide receiver later (sorry, Mike Evans).
That’s the description of the ideal early April pre-draft deal. Low cost, low risk, and at still only 26 years old, high upside.