In 2020, Jamaal Williams was part of a three-headed rushing attack for an NFC North team. In 2021, well, Jamaal Williams will be part of a three-headed rushing attack for an NFC North team, just a different one.
Late on Tuesday night, Williams agreed to a two-year contract with the Detroit Lions, according to media reports. Tom Pelissero of NFL Network has the base details, as Williams’ contract is evidently worth a maximum of $7.5 million with incentives.
As always, guaranteed money and the overall structure of the deal will be important to understand how much Williams will actually make, but something around $3-4 million per year seemed reasonable for a reliable third-down back who is limited as a runner. Williams’ more valuable contributions in Green Bay came as a pass-blocker and a receiver; he caught over 86 percent of his pass targets in both 2019 and 2020.
In Detroit, Williams will join a running back room that also contains former second-round draft picks D’Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson. Swift was an excellent receiving back in 2020, his rookie season, with a DVOA exceeding Williams’. Johnson, however, was effectively an afterthought in Detroit’s offense a year ago, largely playing a third-string role behind Swift and veteran Adrian Peterson, who is a free agent. In seven career games against the Lions, Williams has 69 carries for 325 yards (a 4.7-yard average), 14 receptions for 129 yards (a 9.2 average), and two total touchdowns. Those numbers all exceed his overall career averages in yards per attempt (4.0), per catch (7.9), and per game.
With Williams headed to a division rival, the Packers find themselves needing to determine whether his third down snaps will go to the recently re-signed Aaron Jones or second-year pro AJ Dillon. Jones has contributed in that manner on occasion in the past, but not to the same extent; meanwhile, Dillon was rarely used in the passing game in college and has yet to have much opportunity in the NFL in that role.
Williams leaves as a fan favorite for the positive energy that he brought to the team and the field.