Brad Holmes tells his side of the Jamaal Williams free agent offer
Perhaps the most controversial move of the Detroit Lions offseason came when fan-favorite running back Jamaal Williams left the team in free agency. Williams signed a three-year deal worth $12 million with the New Orleans Saints after publicly stating how much he wanted to return to Detroit for a third season.
The negotiations between Williams’ agent and Lions GM Brad Holmes broke down, and no deal could be reached. The Lions instead signed former Bears running back David Montgomery to a three-year deal worth $18 million. It led to some strained relations, with Williams publicly calling the Lions’ offer “disrespectful” during his introductory press conference in New Orleans.
In his press conference at the NFL owners’ meetings, Holmes laid out his version of the events that led to Williams ultimately choosing to sign with the Saints for less money than the Lions paid Montgomery.
“It was mutual interest,” Holmes stated. “We wanted Jamaal back. Me and Jamaal had a good conversation at the end of the season. His desire to want to come back, that was legit.”
“When we left the combine, we had a conversation with his agent … I thought it was heading in the right direction.”
After telling the back story of his original pursuit of Williams when he first interviewed for the Lions GM job and stating how much he love Williams, Holmes offered up this assessment.
“From a budgeting and planning standpoint, pre-free agency, we had an allotment of resources set aside, really, for Jamaal,” Holmes said clearly. “Didn’t even really consider another running back higher than that amount of resources that we set aside for Jamaal.
Business happens. That’s part of this business. And it just didn’t work. But we tried.”
Holmes then said the pivot to Montgomery came when “it got to the point where David was in play within the range of resources we had set aside, that’s when we went ahead and went for it with David — which we are extremely excited about.”
Read between the lines here. Holmes was careful to note Montgomery’s $18 million fit within the range of resources the team had budgeted with Williams in mind. Yet that offer wasn’t apparently good enough for Williams (or his agent) and he wound up losing out when the competitive market didn’t match the expectations.