Getting to know new Seahawks DT Kevin Williams

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On June 12, the Seahawks signed defensive tackle Kevin Williams to a 1-year/$2.1M contract. It’s the first time in Williams’ eleven-year career that he will suit up in something other than Vikings purple.

Williams is 33 years old right now and will be 34 at the start of the season. It’s been three seasons since the other half of the vaunted “Williams Wall,” Pat Williams, retired. In the time since, Kevin Williams has seen his value drop from Pro Bowl regular to, simply, starter. His 19 total tackles in 2012, and 17 tackles in 2013 were both new career lows. He did sit on the free agent market for three months before Seattle gave him a call.

williams

It’s an interesting signing by John Schneider because he so rarely looks to veterans in order to fill positions of need. The Seahawks have been a remarkable team for their ability to replenish from within, be it with their spot-on draftees or spot-on acquisition of undrafted free agents. Relatively few members of the Seahawks were ever significant contributors to other teams — much less for more than a decade, as Williams was for the Vikings.

This spring the Seahawks had the good problem — but still a problem — in having too many defensive linemen. Here’s a look, courtesy of Sporting Charts, at the defensive linemen who were on the field most often for the Seahawks in 2013. The players who are no longer with the team are in italics:

# of Snaps Played

% of Snaps Played

Michael Bennett

598

57.4

Chris Clemons

568

54.5

Cliff Avril

554

53.2

Brandon Mebane

532

51.1

Clinton McDonald

531

51.0

Tony McDaniel

527

50.6

Red Bryant

481

46.2

 

The Seahawks didn’t really have a “starting” defensive line. They had two defensive lines that they substituted in and out for one another.

There were, by my count, 79 defensive linemen across the NFL who played in more snaps than Bennett, the Seahaws’ D-line snap leader. Given the large contracts that the team has given to Bennett and Avril, it’s clear that defensive line is a priority for Schneider — but also that even the best defensive linemen are played only about half the time.

Kevin Williams was one of those 79 defensive linemen who played more snaps than Bennett: Williams played in 720, or 61.6%, of Vikings defensive snaps. Williams also played in 15 games last year — meaning that he missed just the fifth game of his entire career. He is an amazingly durable player, which was surely foremost in his and his representation’s pitch to teams. And at the top of the Seahawks’ pitch to Williams was that he would see a few hundred snaps fewer than he has in recent years.

It’s a beneficial arrangement for both parties: Williams will elongate his career and maximize his effectiveness while receiving prudent amounts of playing time. The Seahawks will get a veteran presence on a line that includes a rookie fourth-rounder (Cassius Marsh of UCLA) and a rookie fifth-rounder (Jimmy Staten of Middle Tennessee State).

Kevin Williams was likely not a “target” for the Seahawks as the team entered free agency season. But when Williams sat, unemployed, for months — Schneider didn’t miss the chance to swoop in on a low-risk opportunity.

Later this week, I’ll look at the film to see Williams’ areas of strength and weakness in 2013.