TAMPA — After three separate off-the-field incidents in the past several months, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday traded wide receiver Mike Williams to the Buffalo Bills for a 2014 sixth-round draft pick.
The move leaves the Bucs without their No. 2 wideout, a former fourth-round pick out of Syracuse who averaged 65 catches, 910 receiving yards and eight touchdowns per year before a hamstring injury ruined his 2013 season. But the Bucs believed the time had come to cut ties.
“At this time, we felt this was best for both sides and we wish Mike well going forward,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said in a statement released by the team. “We thank Mike for his contributions to the Buccaneers over the last four seasons.’’
Williams did not respond to attempts to reach him for comment, but his agent, Hadley Engelhard, said the move was a good one for Williams. A native of Buffalo, Williams will have a chance to play for his hometown team while being reunited with his college coach, Doug Marrone, now the Bills’ head coach.
“This is the business of football,’’ Engelhard said. “It happens daily across the league. It’s not a personal thing. And Mike appreciates and thanks the Bucs and former general manager Mark Dominik for the opportunity they gave him and he thanks the Bucs fans for all their years of support.
“Let’s not forget that, prior to suffering his hamstring injury last year, Mike was the top receiver from his draft class in every meaningful receiving category. He’s a great football player, and he’s going to continue to be a great football player.’’
There is little doubt the Bucs once saw Williams as a great football player. They signed him to a six-year, $40.25 million contract extension on the first day of training camp last year, but problems began to develop for Williams, on the field and off, almost immediately.
After catching 15 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns through the first four games of the 2013 season, Williams sustained a hamstring strain that knocked him out of the fifth game. He played in the next two games, but the Bucs shut him down after Week 8, ending his season.
It was while Williams was rehabbing from the surgery to repair a torn hamstring that problems off the field began to mount.
The most notable of those was a December 2013 incident after which Williams, 26, faced charges of criminal mischief and trespassing. According to a charging document, he caused about $200 worth of damage to the front door of his now-former girlfriend’s Tampa apartment.
Williams has since been granted approval by a Hillsborough County judge to apply for entry into a misdemeanor intervention program that calls for those charges to be dropped, should Williams complete the program’s as yet undetermined requirements.
Williams also is being sued for causing about $43,000 worth of damage to a home he was renting last June at the gated Sanctuary of Livingston community in Lutz, where neighbors complained of late-night parties that were marked by blaring music and cars strewn around the property.
The lawsuit, brought by landlord Warren Gold after a grease fire broke out in the kitchen, claims Williams agreed to pay for $43,000 worth of damages but failed to do so by the agreed-upon deadline.
Williams has since moved to a home in Avila, where Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies said the receiver was stabbed in the left thigh with a kitchen knife by his brother, Eric Baylor, during a March 22 argument.
Williams was rushed to the hospital, where he was treated and released after receiving what Engelhard said was three stitches to close the wound. Baylor faces charges of aggravated battery domestic violence.
Bucs coach Lovie Smith said in the days just after the stabbing that he saw Williams as a victim in that case and that he did not believe Williams had done anything to warrant being moved off the team.
“Nothing has happened that would cause him to be off the football team,’’ Smith said during a break at the NFL owner’s meetings in Orlando last week. “I’m going to do a lot more research, just as I would with any other player, but as of right now, we have a player that was a victim. That could change, but for right now that’s what I’m going to stick with.’’
The reunion with Marrone comes five years after Williams quit the Syracuse team after he was suspended by Marrone for repeated violations of team rules. Marrone, though, said he is happy to have Williams.
“Mike Williams is a competitive, tough wide receiver who has the size and athleticism to add competition to our receiver position group,” Marrone told buffalobills.com. “We feel Mike is a player who has the ability to help our team improve.
“With regard to our time at Syracuse, I feel that is in the past for both of us. Mike has an opportunity to get a fresh start to his career here in his hometown and regain his form as a productive player in the National Football League. We look forward to getting Mike into the facility and start our work preparing for the 2014 season once the players are free to report on April 22.”