The Bills released Williams on Sunday as part of a move to claim three players off waivers. Wide receiver Philly Brown and linebacker Gerald Hodges also departed the roster in this transaction. The players coming to the team via the waiver wire are linebacker Deon Lacy, tight end Khari Lee and offensive tackle Conor McDermott.
Unexpected move: The #Bills just cut RB Jonathan Williams, source said. Productive player, was slated to be their No. 2 RB at one point.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 3, 2017
Buffalo Bills Release Running Back Jonathan Williams
The move comes as a fairly significant surprise since Williams put together an impressive preseason. He featured in three of the Bills four games and averaged 5.8 yards per carry. It included a rushing touchdown in the preseason finale, a 27-17 win over the Detroit Lions last Thursday.
Buffalo initially selected Williams in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. The Arkansas product impressed during his junior season with the Razorbacks, rushing for 1,190 yards which was good enough for fourth best in the SEC. But he missed the entirety of his senior year after undergoing foot surgery, and so the Bills appeared to be taking a gamble by drafting him.
Williams saw scant playing time during his rookie year. He appeared in 11 games and rushed the ball just 27 times for 94 yards though he did manage to find the end zone once in the Bills 41-25 loss to the New England Patriots on October 30. He finished as the team’s fourth leading rusher behind, McCoy, Tyrod Taylor and Mike Gillislee.
With Gillislee signing a restricted free agent tender in New England, Williams seemed to have the inside track as McCoy’s backup. Who assumes that role now that he’s no longer a part of the Bills’ plans moving forward remains to be seen. Joe Banyard appears to be the frontrunner as he led the team with 147 rushing yards during the preseason.
Buffalo’s 2017 regular season campaign gets underway next Sunday when they welcome the New York Jets to town. Kickoff from New Era Field takes place at 1 PM ET with CBS providing television coverage.