Madieu Williams was signed to a 6-year, $33 million free agent contract this off-season, but the former Bengals safety hasn’t had a chance to bolster the Vikings‘ secondary as was the plan. Instead, Williams spent all of training camp, the preseason and much of the regular season in a neck brace, having suffered a mysterious injury (no one is yet quite sure what happened). Now, at least, Williams has been able to shed the brace, don a helmet and participate in practice – but that doesn’t mean he’s close to joining his Vikings teammates on the field in an actual game.
“It’s the first day,” Williams said after his first practice session of the season. “All I can do is continue to come out here. It will be Coach Childress’ call [when I return].” In the meantime, Tyrell Johnson will continue to start in Williams’ stead. Vikings D-Coordinator Leslie Frazier is happy with the way the rookie Johnson has held up over the first three games. “He’s really surpassed what we thought we’d get out of him in these first three games,” Frazier raved. “He just continues to improve. His best football is obviously ahead of him but he’s getting some experience we didn’t expect he’d be getting this early. He’s getting better and better in his run fits as well as coverage every week. He’s seeing different offenses and they’re trying to do different things to attack him as well as our defense. So it’s good exposure for him. But his composure, his poise has been outstanding. He is a very good athlete. You combine that, you’ve just got to believe that one day he’s going to be a Pro Bowl caliber player.”
It’s all fine and good for Tyrell to get experience, but it would be better to see Madieu Williams actually contribute to this team. In fact, any contribution from any of the free agent signees this off-season would be welcome. Here’s a quick look at what the new players have (or, more to the point, haven’t) done through 3 weeks of the season:
- Bernard Berrian – 6 years, $42 million, $16 million guaranteed – 6 receptions, 117 yards, 0 TDs, over half his production came in last week’s game
- Thomas Tapeh – 5 years, $6.2 million, $1 million guaranteed – Benched in favor of Naufahu Tahi.
- Madieu Williams – 6 years, $33 million, $13 million guaranteed – Yet to play a down with neck injury.
- Maurice Hicks – 3 years, $3.1 million – Was supposed to be our kick returner, hasn’t seen the field.
- Michael Boulware – Ended up on IR.
- Derrick Pope – Cut.
The only two free agent signees who can be said to have done anything for the Purple are Benny Sapp, who’s contributed on special teams, and Ellis Wyms who’s seen some action as a back-up D-lineman. The overall off-season acquisitions scoreboard would look even more disastrous, of course, were it not skewed by the Jared Allen trade which so far looks like a terrific move. Berrian and Williams could save the situation by turning their seasons around, which in Williams’ case would first mean his actually playing.