The one-time Pro Bowl cornerback will turn 31 on March 16 and is scheduled to make $7.5 million next season in salary ($6.9 million) and bonuses ($600,000), making him the highest-paid player currently under contract for next season on the Packers’ defense.
That’s an age and a pay range that make him vulnerable in general manager Ted Thompson’s way of doing business.
Then Williams went out and played the kind of game he did last Sunday against the New York Giants.
Without the injured Sam Shields, who this season overtook Williams as the team’s designated shut-down cornerback, Williams played what one high-level NFL personnel man said was “the best game of his career.”
Williams, in his seventh NFL season, made eight tackles (all solo stops, including two for losses) and intercepted his first pass of the season in last Sunday’s 27-13 loss to the Giants. It was a performance reminiscent of late in the 2010 season, when Williams was one of the key components on the Super Bowl XLV team.
Yet Williams’ future in Green Bay might still be in doubt. Shields will be a free agent after this season, and while no progress has been made on a long-term deal, the Packers likely have him high on their list of priorities to re-sign. If Williams isn’t open to a pay cut, he could be released.
Unless he continues to play like he did against the Giants.
“If he plays the next six games and going into playoff like he played this last game,” Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said, “we’re going to say, ‘Wow.’ It would be better answered after the season.”
It was a long road back for Williams, who had not been the same since he suffered a shoulder injury in the 2011 season opener against the New Orleans Saints that caused nerve damage. Though Williams missed only one game over the past two seasons combined, the injury clearly impacted his performance, especially in 2011.
“Tramon played his best game this season last week,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “I thought he tackled very well. He was involved in the run. He made the nice interception down in the red zone. I felt it was his best performance of the year.”
But it wasn’t enough to prevent a third straight loss.
“I take responsibility for that, because when they make a mental mistake, that is on me,” Whitt said. “We can’t make mental mistakes, and that means I haven’t done my job properly.”
From the get-go last Sunday, Williams looked like a different player. On the game’s opening series, Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw a short hitch to Victor Cruz, and Williams came from his off coverage position and stuck Cruz after just a 3-yard gain.
“With this stretch that we’re on, we’re on a losing stretch anyways, so it really don’t matter at this point,” Williams said. “You feel that something has to be changed, or someone has to step up or do something a little different, and I feel that I’m one of the guys who needs to step up, whether it’s by example or whether it’s by being a vocal leader. Different guys do it different ways. We just have to make sure we’re getting effort out of everybody. I’m not saying we’re not, but when it comes to times like this, you want to make sure you’re maxing out on everything.”