GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The last time cornerback Tramon Williams was a free agent, he was coming off eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers, who had averaged 11 wins per season and had won Super Bowl XLV.
In the Cleveland Browns, he saw a franchise that, on the surface, was building toward winning. The Browns had just finished 7-9 in 2014 under first year coach Mike Pettine. It looked like the right fit for Williams, who signed a three-year contract worth $21 million with the Browns.
But over the next two seasons, Williams won only four games.
“I actually thought those guys were on the right direction,” Williams said. “They had just come off a good year and then once I signed, they started going in another direction right away. You got to live and learn. That’s all it is. Experience.”
So after his release in February, Williams wanted his next team to be, well, built to win.
The 34-year-old versatile defensive back feels rejuvenated with the Arizona Cardinals, who have averaged 10.25 wins since 2013. He knows he won’t be winning just one game next season like the Browns did last season.
“It was one of the hardest things I had to do,” Williams said. “I’ve won a Super Bowl and we won one game last year, and we played our heart out to win that game. And I feel that’s my second best game winning in my career.
“And I won a Super Bowl, so that tells you how it was.”
When Williams was evaluating potential destinations, he saw the opportunity to compete for and potentially win the right cornerback job. He also looked at how former Cardinals cornerback Marcus Cooper turned his performance last season, when he had four interceptions and was a Pro Bowl alternate after being traded for in September and not starting the first two games, into a three-year contract with the Chicago Bears worth a reported $16 million.
Williams said he studies other cornerbacks around the league, focusing in on the ones who are playing well. He wants to know what defenses they’re playing in and how their skills fit the scheme. Cooper was one of the corners Williams studied last season.
When Williams had the opportunity to sign with Arizona, he saw the same defense he played in with the Browns just with different terminology. Williams was confident he’ll have the defense down by Week 1, should he make the 53-man roster.
Should Williams make the team, he knows what it’ll be like playing alongside a star cornerback and the effect that causes. He played with Charles Woodson and Al Harris in Green Bay and Joe Haden in Cleveland. Williams knows he’ll be tested if he’s on the field.
And while Williams is aware nothing in the NFL is guaranteed, he’s comfortable with his decision to sign with the Cardinals last week.
“I can truthfully live with it because I know these guys try to win,” Williams said. “And if we don’t, I can live with it.”