Williams was one of the first unrestricted free agent signings of Brad Holmes’ tenure as Lions general manager. With the Lions turning over their wide receiver room, and Williams’ connection to offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn (they played/coached together with the Chargers), he was brought in with expectations of contributing from a starting role.
Throughout training camp, Williams looked like a capable starting receiver, though leaning on him to play as WR1 was a big ask. Still, he accepted the role and entered the season as one of the top options on the Lions’ offense. But that was short-lived, and after being on the wrong end of an illegal hit in Week 1, he was eventually placed on injured reserve after not being able to clear the league's concussion protocols.
As I noted in my Lions’ bye week injury updates, “When a brain injury lingers this long, it’s typically not a good sign for the player’s ability to return to the field in the same season and could show long-term effects.”
While Williams is now a free agent, his injury settlement release comes with some restrictions. The short version of how it works is the Lions and Willliams’ agent agree on an estimated recovery time for Williams and a monetary amount Williams was expected to earn during that time. The Lions pay him that amount of money and Williams is restricted from playing in the NFL until the agreed-upon amount of time has passed. For example, if they determined he was worth $100,000 a game and they believed he would miss three more games, the Lions would pay him $300,000 and he could not play for another team for the next three weeks. After that, he would be free to sign and play on one of the other 31 teams.
The benefit for Williams is it’s possible he will be able to return and play in the NFL this season.
The benefit for the Lions is that they likely clear up some cap space (depending on the settlement amount). It’s important to note that because Williams was on injured reserve, this DOES NOT impact the active 53-man roster. Meaning, if the Lions were to add another player they would still have to make a corresponding move.