Free agency within Williams' sight

Jason Cole
Yahoo! Sports

One positive for Miami running back Ricky Williams in getting reinstated now is that he'll be a year closer to free agency, perhaps as early as after the 2008 season.

Because Williams was suspended under the NFL substance abuse policy in 2004, 2006 and for most of this season, he technically is entering only the seventh year of his career after being a first-round pick in 1999.

Under the policy, player contracts are tolled, meaning that the team doesn't lose its contractual control over the player. When Williams was suspended prior to the 2006 season, he had two years remaining on the deal.

Williams is eligible to play as early as Nov. 26, a Monday night game at Pittsburgh. Once he plays in one game, that effectively counts as one season under his contract. Assuming Williams stays out of trouble with the league, next season would be his final one under the contract.

That's important because under the revised contract Williams signed with the Dolphins in 2002, his base salary was dropped to the NFL minimum after he retired in 2004 and subsequently was suspended by the NFL.

Williams will make a prorated share of $595,000 this season, which comes to $35,000 per week (contracts are paid over the 17-week season). In 2008, Williams' contract will have a base salary of $720,000. Williams can't earn any incentive money directly from the Dolphins under the current deal.

Williams, who has four children by three women, said Thursday that money wasn't his primary motivation. But he said it certainly was an important part of it. Under one child support agreement, Williams pays $4,200 per month. Under Florida law, the amount can't be decreased if Williams retires or is suspended by the NFL.

When asked about his financial motivation, Williams said: "In the past I would be asked that question, and I would be almost insulted by it, saying, 'The reason I play this game is for the love of the game.' I think anyone who knows if you're in any kind of relationship purely because of desire or love, that it's going to wax and it's going to wane.

There has to be something else – more glue that holds it together. I think I do have a passion for the game, and I also do have a family that I have to support. When those two come together and I can embrace both, it makes for a good fit."

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