The New England Patriots have been busy this offseason providing quarterback Tom Brady with new potential targets, after cutting wide receiver Brandon LaFell, who has been one of Brady’s top receivers in 2014 but fell out of favor last season. LaFell battled through injury, missing the first five games of the season, and then was barely a factor on his return catching just 37 passes for 515 yards with no touchdowns.
In 2014, LaFell caught 74 for 953 yards and seven touchdowns —plus two more TDs in the postseason.
But what may have really turned off Brady and New England Coach Bill Belichick was LaFell’s seeming inability to hold the ball when Brady threw it to him. In his first game back from injury, LaFell dropped six Brady passes and went on to place sixth in the NFL in drops, despite playing only 11 games.
LaFell has since signed with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Earlier in March, the Patriots signed former Buffalo Bills wide receiver Chris Hogan as a restricted free agent — but rumors now say that New England is interested in one of Hogan’s more controversial teammates as well.
That former teammate would be 28-year-old Mike Williams, a once-promising pass-catcher out of Syracuse University who did not play a single down in 2015 after being acquired by Buffalo in the offseason — and then cut in the first week of December.
The Patriots reportedly brought Williams to Foxborough Wednesday where the troubled receiver worked out for the team and, according to Boston Globe Patriots beat writer Ben Volin, was impressive enough to catch the team’s interest.
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) March 31, 2016
Watch an interview with Williams when he was acquired by the Bills, in the video below.
Despite not having a team in 2015, Williams was suspended by the National Football League for the first three games of the season — but the NFL did not give a reason for the suspension. Williams later took to his social media accounts, revealing only that “I got suspended for three weeks for something I did three years ago.”
In the same social media post last October, Williams, a free agent, said that he had already turned down offers from NFL teams “because of the QB situation…it’s about perfect fit and a QB.”
Presumably the “QB situation” would not be a problem in New England where Brady continues to rank among the top quarterbacks in the NFL, even as he will turn 39 years old before the 2016 season.
— Matthew Fairburn (@MatthewFairburn) March 31, 2016
Williams was drafted out of Syracuse by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2010, as a fourth-round pick. But he may have gone higher in the draft had his college career not been marred by seemingly constant conflict with then-Coach Doug Marrone.
In fact, things got so bad that Williams simply left the Syracuse team with four games left in his final college season. Whether Williams was kicked off the team by Marrone or simply quit was not entirely clear, but his departure came after he was involved in a car crash with three teammates on their way back from a casino after team curfew.
Two years earlier he had been suspended for a whole season because he allegedly cheated on a test in a class.
But after four seasons in Tampa Bay, Marrone — by then the coach of the Bills — decided it was time to reunite with Mike Williams. The Bills sent a sixth-round pick to the Bucs to take Williams off their hands.
Williams proceeded to draw attention to himself first by incurring repeated fines for wearing bright red socks not authorized by the league, then for his trade demands and complaints about playing time — finally leading Marrone to give up on Williams a second time.
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But in Tampa Bay, Mike Williams was coached by Greg Schiano, the former Rutgers University coach who is a close friend and confidant of New England Coach Belichick, so it appears possible that Belichick’s interest in bringing Williams to the Patriots originated with a recommendation from Schiano.
[Featured Photo By Tom Szczerbowski / GettyImages]