TAMPA, Fla. — Mike Williams wanted to be a Buccaneer for life. As far as he is concerned, he received his wish.
Williams, a fourth-year Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver, was signed to a six-year, $40.25 million contract Wednesday morning. The deal amounts to a five-year extension, as Williams had prepared to enter the season playing on the final year of his contract.
“That’s where I want to be for life,” Williams said. “Buc for life. … This is what I wanted. This is everything I wanted. I wanted to be here. I wanted to stay here. I just can’t wait to get camp started and continue doing what I’m doing.”
Williams was a fourth-round selection, 101st overall, by Tampa Bay in the 2010 NFL draft. He has 193 catches for 2,731 yards and 23 touchdowns in his first three seasons in the league. A Syracuse product, he has started 47 of 48 games.
Citing a chip on his shoulder early in his career because he slid in the draft, Williams said he was motivated to show he could produce an extended NFL career. He said that drive has remained part of competitive spark as he has developed with Tampa Bay.
As a result, Williams, 26, has grown into a standout member of wide receivers taken in the 2010 draft class. The native of Buffalo, N.Y., ranks second in catches, yards and touchdowns, only behind the Dallas Cowboys’ Dez Bryant (200 catches for 2,871 yards and 27 touchdowns). Prior to the agreement, talks about an extension between the Bucs and Williams had been ongoing throughout the offseason.
“I’m excited for Mike,” Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik said. “I’m excited for our football team. I’m excited for our community, because he’s a big part of why we’re building an explosive offense.”
News of the extension means Tampa Bay has secured its second-best pass-catching option from last season. Williams, who had 996 yards receiving in 2012, finished in the category behind only Vincent Jackson’s 1,384 yards during a year in which the Bucs ranked No. 10 in passing offense with an average of 248.9 yards per game.
The possibility of working with Jackson, a three-time Pro Bowl player, excites Williams. The duo combined for a bulk of the Bucs’ receiving production last season (running back Doug Martin finished third with 472 yards receiving). Entering the Bucs’ second year under coach Greg Schiano, Jackson and Williams figure to be one of the NFC South’s most significant receiver combinations.
“I think he’s the best receiver in the league,” Williams said of Jackson. “I don’t think anybody works harder than him. To teach the younger players what he does, to teach us how he watches film and how he runs routes, I think he’s the best in the league.”
By signing Williams, the Bucs avoid a potential distraction in training camp and beyond involving one of their largest offensive threats. Now, thoughts can turn to continued development of a rising star.
“The way he plays and practices the game is really important to me,” Schiano said. “This is a guy who loves football. As I said when we arrived here, we’re looking for guys who are going to do things the right way and who love the game of football, not like it. This guy right here, he loves it.”