PHILADELPHIA -- The Eagles released starting cornerback Cary Williams on Tuesday, making it likely they will have to find replacements for three-quarters of their 2014 secondary.
Williams, 30, started all 33 regular-season and playoff games during his two seasons with the Eagles. He was part of a secondary that allowed the most passing yards in the NFL in 2013 and the second-most in 2014.
The Eagles' other starting cornerback, Bradley Fletcher, was already due to become a free agent on March 10. So was starting safety Nate Allen.
Williams had one more year left on the three-year deal he signed in 2013. He was scheduled to make $6.5 million in salary in 2015. His salary-cap number, which includes a prorated portion of his $5 million signing bonus, would have been $8.17 million. By releasing Williams, the Eagles clear $6.5 million in cap space but still must allocate $1.67 million toward the cap.
In an interview Tuesday with 97.5 The Fanatic, an ESPN-related sports talk station, Williams said he was not given an option to remain with the Eagles at a reduced salary. "They wanted to go in a new direction," Williams said. "That was fine with me. I'm not disappointed in anything that went on in Philadelphia. I enjoyed my time there. I enjoyed the fans, and I enjoyed my teammates."
Williams spent an eventful two seasons with the Eagles. Signed as a free agent in 2013 after four years with the Baltimore Ravens, Williams first attracted attention for missing most of the offseason workouts that year. Williams explained that he was spending time with his family and building a new house. Having just won a Super Bowl with the Ravens, he said he needed some time away from football.
During training camp that summer, Williams got into a fistfight with New England Patriots wide receiver Aaron Dobson during a joint practice session. Due to an agreement between head coaches Chip Kelly and Bill Belichick, both players were kicked out of the practice.
Later that summer, Williams' volatile personality surfaced again. He was involved in a practice fight with wide receiver Riley Cooper. Earlier in camp, Cooper was sent home for a few days after an Internet video surfaced showing him shouting a racial epithet during a Kenny Chesney concert.
During the 2014 season, Williams said after an Eagles victory over Washington that the players were tired because of Kelly's up-tempo practice regimen.
"We've got to start taking care of our guys, taking care of our players," Williams said in September. "A lot of guys coming in here had no legs. ...
It's hard to go out there and fight for 60 minutes when you're fighting throughout the week to make it through one practice."
The next day, on the players' day off, Williams came into the Eagles' facility to talk with Kelly. The day after that, he apologized to the entire team during a meeting.
"When you're a pro for seven years and you make a mistake, you understand you affected the welfare of everybody in this locker room, and you have to address those guys man-to-man and let them know that you're sorry," Williams said at the time. "That's what I did."
Williams said on 97.5 The Fanatic that his comments did not come up in his meeting with Kelly.
"He didn't tell me anything in that light," Williams said. "As far as I'm concerned, that was in September. This is a new month and a new year, and they wanted to go in a new direction."
On the field, Williams was a good but not great player. He had two interceptions in his two seasons with the Eagles, both in 2014.