Posted: 10:03 am Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
By Post Staff
Ricky Williams has some pretty remarkable accomplishments on his football resume. He holds the Dolphins single-season franchise record with 1,853 rushing yards in 2002. He is one of two remaining running backs from the 1999 draft (Kevin Faulk) despite a career marred with several suspensions and one premature retirement. And he holds the NFL record for most years between 1,000-yard seasons (six).
But his most recent accomplishment may be the most remarkable. Twelve years after entering the NFL, Williams has finally reached unrestricted free agency.
“I wonder which teams jersey I’ll be wearing next season?” he wrote yesterday on his Twitter account. “Its exciting to finally be a free agent.”
Most NFL players reach unrestricted free agency by their fifth season, but Williams never has done things the traditional way. As a rookie in 1999 he signed a rapper as his agent (Master P) and then signed a historically bad seven-year contract with New Orleans, which included an $8.8 million signing bonus but also incentives that could only be earned if Williams had the most productive four-year start to his career in NFL history (which he obviously didn’t).
Williams had his contract restructured when he was traded to Miami in 2002, but his contract status became complicated with each retirement and failed drug test from 2004-07. He could have been a free agent after the 2008 and 2009 seasons, but instead signed one-year contract extensions with the Dolphins before hitting free agency.
Now, finally, Williams is a free man. And while he hasn’t ruled out a return to Miami, he appears ready to test his options.
Williams was highly critical of Dolphins coach Tony Sparano and his micromanaging coaching style in a radio interview two months ago, but he later apologized and his comments are likely nothing that can’t be smoothed over with Sparano.
“My attitude is: wherever it is (I play), I will thoroughly enjoy, learn and grow from it,” Williams tweeted yesterday. “Life is just a bunch of lessons. Successes are like grades. I had to repeat the Dolphin grade several times ;-) Now its retake it for fun, or move on to another lesson. I’m blessed to have the choice.”
The Dolphins, who had one of the worst rushing offenses in the league last year, may not want him back. Jeff Ireland has stated a desire to get younger and faster, and the team especially needs those upgrades at running back.
“In case you don’t understand, free agency works two ways. The team has to want the player,” Williams tweeted yesterday.
Williams, who turns 34 in May, says he wants “happiness, inner peace and financial security” with his next deal. He likely won’t get a ton of offers on the market, but he was still fairly productive in 2010, rushing for 659 yards on 4.2 yards per carry and three total touchdowns. Just as importantly, he didn’t suffer much wear-and-tear in 2010, carrying the ball only 159 times and remarking in his January radio interview that “this whole season I haven’t taken one Advil.”
But even if Williams does move on next year, he still has an emotional connection to the Dolphins’ organization, with which he spent parts of nine years.
“I will always be a Fin,” he tweeted.