Sam Williams is in trouble. Again. The red flag draft prospect from 2022 has seemingly lived up to the reputation that made him a risky draft selection just roughly 15 months ago.
For as talented as he was as a pass-rusher, he was considered a risk by the draft community. His suspension from the University of Mississippi was a result of sexual battery charges in 2020. The Cowboys understood the risks and rewards and reportedly ran extensive background checks before selecting him No. 56 in the 2022 draft.
“A pass rusher is a premium. A pressure player is a premium, Jerry Jones said of the pick. “First and foremost, he’s a terrific player and a potential terrific pro as a player. He has a lot of energy, a lot of personality. We think that is a real positive for his play as well as the people around him. He brings a lot to the table. We thoroughly investigated those allegations and are completely satisfied that those are well within our comfort level.”
On August 20, Williams was arrested on charges of possession of a controlled substance and unlawfully carrying a weapon, according to the Star Telegram. This incident comes on the heels of a December reckless driving crash which resulted in hospitalization for Williams and another party.
The Cowboys hoped the off-the-field issues were behind him but his latest incident marks the second legal issue he’s had before his second season even kicks off.
This begs the question: What do the Cowboys really need from their maligned second-year pass-rusher?
Three years. That’s what the Cowboys need from Williams. Given the landscape of the defense, they don’t need Williams to be long-term cornerstone or building block. They need him to be a short-term solution.
Micah Parsons is on the verge of a massive contract extension that could very well be the richest defensive contract in NFL history. Dallas has already committed to Trevon Diggs’ top-of-the-market money, they’ve re-signed two veteran safeties to extensions, and they have defensive Osa Odighizuwa coming up.
The likelihood the Cowboys double down at EDGE and invest even more money in the defensive end position is probably slim given Odighizuwa (essentially their only 3-tech and popular breakout candidate for 2023) and Mazi Smith are considered building block players and most teams like to spread their resources throughout the different units of the defense.
The Parsons Effect
Linemen playing next to Parsons are at a decided advantage. As one of the most double-teamed players in the NFL, Parsons’ presence gives teammates an inordinate number of one-on-ones.
In the same way DeMarcus Ware once helped boost Anthony Spencer’s pressure numbers, Parsons boosts the numbers for anyone lining up opposite him.
While the Cowboys would love to be able to re-sign all their draft picks to second contracts, it’s not always financially feasible. When a team employs some of the highest paid players in the league, such a practice is even less feasible.
If Dallas can get three more solid years from Williams, the second-round investment will be well worth it. Treating the EDGE spot opposite Parsons as a low-cost replaceable part is a great way for the Cowboys to save money and also maximize the Parsons Effect.
Williams has to stay an option
The Cowboys can’t afford to run into another Randy Gregory situation where the games missed on the rookie deal exceed the games played. They need Williams to keep himself eligible.
While no word yet on possible NFL ramifications for Williams’ latest brush with the law, reports are optimistic that he’ll avoid suspension in 2023.
Jerry Jones said he has all the details about Cowboys DE Sam Williams’ recent arrest. Jones said he doesn’t expect it to impact Williams’ availability on the field this season
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) August 23, 2023
The Cowboys don’t need Williams to be a boy scout or the perfect citizen because they don’t need to commit to him beyond his rookie contract. But they need him to be clean enough stay eligible so he can reap the benefits of playing alongside Parsons.