Chris Williams' time as a NFL free agent didn't last long, unlike his CFL contract dispute. One day after the former Hamilton Tiger-Cats' receiver/returner reached an agreement with the team and the CFL that ended his contract battle and allowed him to test the NFL waters, he's apparently landed a job south of the border with the New Orleans Saints. Dan Vertlieb, Williams' Vancouver-based agent, told Dan Ralph of The Canadian Press about the deal Thursday, and Ralph also received an e-mail statement from Williams. Here's what Williams told him:
In an email statement, Williams, who was married earlier this week, expressed his sincere appreciation to those who made it possible for him to land an NFL opportunity.
"I could not have gotten through this challenging time without the love and understanding of my wife Lana and my two children," Williams said. "I would like to thank everybody at the CFLPA, specifically president Mike Morreale and the rest of the executive and the union members, as well as Ed Molstad and the entire legal team.
"I also want to recognize my agent, Dan Vertlieb, and my lawyer Art Vertlieb. Dan and Art were with me every step of the way, providing guidance and support, and they have become like family to me in the process. I would also like to thank the Hamilton Tiger-Cats organization, my teammates, and especially the fans of Hamilton and the CFL for two wonderful years. I am so happy to bring this process to an end and I am very excited about the future."
The Saints hadn't posted Williams' signing on their transactions page as of 12:30 a.m. Friday, but that doesn't mean it won't happen; some of these transactions sometimes take a day or so to register. There is a lot of interest in this one, though, and the reasons for that interest go beyond Williams' football talents. The story's been picked up by the AP, and that's likely more thanks to its unusual elements than his potential impact in New Orleans. Mid-year moves from the NFL to the CFL happen often with players cut from NFL teams, but it's rare to see players go the other way in the middle of the CFL season; the Williams case is unique thanks to his contract dispute and the arbitration and court proceedings it led to.
However, while Williams' quick landing in the NFL despite it being the middle of their season as well suggests his view of the southern interest in him was an accurate one, it doesn't necessarily mean he'll become an impact player south of the border. Many CFL players don't manage to do much in the NFL, and Williams faces a particularly daunting set of challenges. For one, he's joining a team that already has an amazing returner in Darren Sproles and an impressive collection of receivers. He's also coming in without a training camp or a preseason to acclimatize to the team's playbook and philosophies. Still, Williams' talent suggests he could definitely wind up making an impression on the NFL if he's given the right chance.
Even if Williams doesn't play much this year, though, this could be a substantial boost for his pocketbook. He was set to make a base salary of $48,000 in Hamilton this year, and the NFL's minimum salary for active-roster players in 2013-14 is almost 10 times that at $405,000. Even practice squad players in the NFL can haul in $6,000 or more per week; over the remaining 12 weeks of the season, the minimum practice roster salary alone would be $72,000. It's understandable why he wanted to test the NFL waters given that pay differential. Moreover, the Tiger-Cats don't really lose out here; Williams wasn't going to play for them this season, and the deal he agreed to actually means they still hold his CFL rights for this season and next if he bounces out of the NFL, which is substantially more value than they would have gotten if he'd just held out all year.
This could work out for both sides. Williams now gets the chance to try and fulfil his NFL dreams (which he could have had at the start of this year if Hamilton had done their CBA-mandated duty and offered him a two-year contract as well as the three-year one he eventually signed), and the Tiger-Cats get something rather than nothing. It's just unfortunate for Williams that things didn't work out in a way that would have given him a full NFL training camp and season to test his skills south of the border. However, he is getting a NFL chance now, and we'll see what he does with it.