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New contract close between Bucs and WR Williams

The SportsXchange

TAMPA -- Negotiations on a new contract between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and wide receiver Mike Williams, which accelerated following free agency and the NFL Draft, may produce an agreement within weeks, if not days.

"All I can say about that is that it's very close," Williams said.

Williams, selected in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, has averaged 64 catches through his first three seasons and had a career-best 996 yards and nine touchdowns in 2012. He is currently scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the 2013 season.

Bucs general manager Mark Dominik would like to get a deal completed before training camp.

But for the Bucs, the contract extension would be somewhat precedent-setting. While it would make good business sense to lock up Williams before he hits free agency, Dominik can expect a line outside his door when players such as linebacker Lavonte David and safety Mark Barron out-perform their rookie contracts.

Williams, 26, dropped to the fourth round of the draft amid reports that he quit on his Syracuse football team with a few games remaining. While it turned out to be a misunderstanding between Williams and then-Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, the damage had been done.

As a rookie, Williams had 964 yards receiving (14.8-yard average) and 11 touchdowns. But following the NFL lockout in 2011, he slumped to only three touchdowns and a pedestrian 11.9 yards per catch.

Williams is scheduled to earn $1.4 million in base salary this season, part of his rookie deal of four years, $2.3825 million. Over the past few seasons, Dominik has structured contracts with little to no signing bonus and high base salaries that are guaranteed for the first two years of the deal.

Coach Greg Schiano said, "I see the changes in Mike over the last year. Mike is becoming such a more seasoned pro. Mike always had the passion for the game, way back from when I knew him when he was at Syracuse. I mean, this kid loves to play football. But all the little things about being a pro, I think Vincent (Jackson) has brought that into the room and certainly for Mike and for all those guys."

--Forget practice. The Bucs headed to a matinee instead. On the final day of mandatory minicamp, Schiano canceled the final workout and decided the team would see a sneak peek of Brad Pitt's summer action thriller, World War Z. Judging by player responses on social media, the excitement is palpable.

"There is a God!!!" linebacker Dekoda Watson exclaimed on Twitter.

"Shout out to the H.C. (head coach) for tossing us a bone," tight end Zach Miller tweeted.

--The Bucs signed wide receiver Derek Hagan, a former third-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2006, to a contract following a tryout at minicamp. Hagan, who joined the Bucs in practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, is a receiver who spent time on the Raiders' roster last season, catching 20 passes for 259 yards. He became an unrestricted free agent in March. The 28 year old is joining his fifth team since entering the league with the Dolphins. He enjoyed his best NFL season in 2007, when he caught 27 passes for 373 yards for Miami. Another receiver, Jheranie Boyd, was released.
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