MINNEAPOLIS -- After Kevin Williams concluded his visit with the New England Patriots last Thursday, he saw interest from three potential suitors -- the Patriots, the Seattle Seahawks and the New York Giants -- pick up to the point where he figured he'd have a contract for his 12th NFL season relatively soon. What he didn't count on was one final offer from the team with which he'd spent his whole career.
The six-time Pro Bowler hadn't had any contact with the Minnesota Vikings since the start of free agency, when they'd signed two defensive tackles and told Williams they likely wouldn't have room for him. That was true until last week, when the team called agent Tom Condon to propose a deal in line with the three other offers he'd received (just over $2 million for next season). Coach Mike Zimmer talked with Williams on the phone, telling him the Vikings could "use the leadership of a veteran," Williams said. "He said I could help them out this season with what they were trying to get done."
Williams ultimately had too many concerns with the Vikings' prospects for 2014 -- and specifically their quarterback situation -- to pass up a chance to play with an obvious contender. He ultimately picked the Seahawks over the Patriots, agreeing to a one-year deal with them on Thursday night and taking a little less money than he said the Patriots had offered. But the Vikings' late push, if nothing else, left Williams flattered -- and surprised.
"It was shocking that they got back in the fold at the end there," Williams said. "I just think there were better pieces in place in Seattle. The familiarity with being in Minnesota was there, but a chance to (not) know if they're going to win 10 games or three games (played into it). I wish them luck, but there's no certainty there, and you have a proven quarterback in those two teams (Seattle and New England)."
The situation has some parallels to what the Vikings did with Antoine Winfield a year ago, cutting the cornerback only to make a late push for him before he signed with the Seahawks, who have made a regular habit of acquiring old Vikings players in recent years. In Williams' case, though, the Vikings' interest might have been an even more sudden turn, and came after the team had spent considerable resources on its defensive line, signing Linval Joseph, Tom Johnson and Corey Wootton to contracts worth nearly $33.5 million combined this offseason.
Williams would have been a rotational player in Minnesota, as he would be anywhere at this point in his career, but it's worth asking if the Vikings' pivot back to him would suggest some concern about their defensive tackle group. Zimmer spoke highly last week of second-year player Sharrif Floyd, who was drafted to replace Williams at three-technique tackle, and Joseph should see the majority of snaps at nose tackle once he's recovered from an injury that caused him to miss the Vikings' organized team activities (OTAs). But whether the Vikings want more depth or whether they feel some need for an experienced player after their efforts to get younger on the line, their interest in Williams was certainly notable -- especially when it caught the defensive tackle off-guard.
Now, he'll move on to try and get to a Super Bowl after watching the Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos last February. Williams said the Seahawks "had a few more pieces in place for me" than the Patriots did, and he said Winfield -- who was cut by Seattle at the end of training camp last August -- was "very complimentary" of the organization. Williams will head to Seattle to sign his contract next week and participate in the team's minicamp, in hopes of a longer stay in the Pacific Northwest than Winfield had.
"All I can do is do the best I can," Williams said. "Hopefully that's enough [to secure a roster spot]."