Chicago Tribune on Chris Williams

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Williams is someone general manager Phil Emery's front office identified as a replacement before last season ended. The Bears tried multiple times to lure him from the Saints practice squad before finally getting it done Dec. 26, three days before the final game of the season.

The Bears wooed Williams away from the Saints with a $100,000 signing bonus, a financial commitment that is rare for practice squad players.

The burning question is whether or not Williams' skills will translate to the NFL? If so, he will be a bargain. He gets a $25,000 roster bonus if he's on the 53-man roster for Week 1 and has base salaries of $495,000 this season and $510,000 in 2015

Bears hope for good 'return' on investment
Brad Biggs April 12, 2014

Comparisons to Devin Hester are going to come for Chris Williams or whoever winds up becoming the Bears' primary returner.

It has nothing to do with what is realistic for Williams, who was a record-setting returner in the CFL in 2011 and '12 as well as an extremely productive slot receiver. It's an inevitability and one that Williams has to understand.

Hester, the most dynamic returner in NFL history, has moved to the Falcons for the next chapter of his career, and Williams is someone general manager Phil Emery's front office identified as a replacement before last season ended. The Bears tried multiple times to lure him from the Saints practice squad before finally getting it done Dec. 26, three days before the final game of the season.

The Bears wooed Williams away from the Saints with a $100,000 signing bonus, a financial commitment that is rare for practice squad players.

Williams, 26, spent time in Florida last month training with his new teammates and now he's looking forward to the start of the voluntary offseason program on April 22. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall made sure to include Williams in the Florida workouts that quarterback Jay Cutler also attended.

"It was awesome," Williams said. "It's nice to be welcomed and all of us putting in the work for the same common goal, it's what team is to me.

"It's what we need so when we hit those rough patches. We can look back on building those bonds and knowing (a guy) put in the work and is willing to put in the work for his teammates and himself. It's going to come back and help us in a big way."

Soon, the Bears will be able to put Williams to work in the offense as it is difficult to determine much when it comes to special teams until training camp and exhibitions. Marc Trestman coached against Williams for two seasons when the New Mexico State product was the CFL's most outstanding rookie in 2011 and the league's special teams player of the year in 2012.

"When he touched the ball, everybody was on the edge of their seat and to beat the team he was on, you had to neutralize him," Trestman said.

The burning question is whether or not Williams' skills will translate to the NFL? If so, he will be a bargain. He gets a $25,000 roster bonus if he's on the 53-man roster for Week 1 and has base salaries of $495,000 this season and $510,000 in 2015. Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake was named the CFL's top rookie four years before Williams and has been a Pro Bowl performer in three of five seasons with the Dolphins.

Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, who played for Trestman in Montreal, just went from the Bengals to the Browns on a $13.6 million, four-year contract as a restricted free agent and Williams was far more productive in the slot and on special teams in Canada.

Williams, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds at his pro day in 2009, led the Hamilton Ti-Cats with 83 receptions for 1,298 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012 when he also had five punt returns for touchdowns and returned a missed field goal 119 yards for a touchdown. As a rookie in 2011, he led the Ti-Cats with 70 catches for 1,064 yards.

"We haven't seen enough," Trestman said. "Obviously, we think Chris has got some unique athletic talent. We do play in weather and that affects the ability to catch the ball. So that is an advantage for him."

It's not Williams' first trip to the NFL. Before the practice squad stint with the Saints, which began in October after he won a protracted legal battle to leave the CFL, he had brief stays with the Dolphins and Browns. Now, Williams believes he's ready to flourish.

"I know what to expect now," he said. "Going to Canada, it helped. It definitely humbles you as a player, for sure, and as a person. It helped me develop a new mindset of what I need to do to go through a whole season.

"Everyone's situation is different and everyone ends up where they are for a reason. It doesn't necessarily mean you were not good enough. I made the best of what I could and now that I am getting this opportunity, I want to show I can be helpful and successful on any team."

The Bears figure to give Marquess Wilson the first shot at replacing Earl Bennett as the No. 3 receiver in the offense. But Williams will be able to show what he can do and he could become a package player. Then, there is the return game where the Bears are most interested in what the 5-foot-8, 175-pounder can do with punts after Hester gave the team such an edge for eight seasons.

"We're not comparing him to Devin Hester," Trestman said. "That is not fair. We think he can compete and he has the athleticism to do that. We'll see."

Williams can't wait to start but he's not going to pigeonhole himself as a returner.

"Being a big-time producer is not something that is new to me," he said. "For me to have an extended role in the offense would be awesome. Whatever the coaching staff wants me to do, I am more than willing. That is really the bottom line."

Apparently the CFL was not that Humbling an experience After all?

Some may agree with Williams and his holdout, but a contract is a contract, the NFL should pay compensation to the CFL in a situation where a NFL team is offering a signed CFL player a practice roster agreement.

U.S. players should be required to sign a letter of commitment to their CFL teams, until their contracts are expired. If they don't sign they don't get to use the CFL as a "Humbling" spring board.

Kudos to the Ticats special teams of 2011 and 2012. :rockin:

Williams was not under contract to the Ticats when New Orleans offered him a spot on their practice roster. While there may have been informal discussions with his agent before that - and that is pure speculation - there was nothing official until after Williams and the Ticats reached their out-of-court settlement.

The question becomes whether there is any compensation owed the Ticats if there had been informal discussions between the Saints and Vertlieb. How is this different that McDonalds talking to a Burger King employee about taking a job with them? I can see one McDonalds franchise being prevented from poaching employees from another McDonalds franchise, but there would be nothing to prevent going after a rival’s employees.

Perhaps the CFL needs to negotiate a compensation agreement with the NFL. The problem is that there’s nothing in it for the NFL, so why would they agree to this?

On the other hand, a clause could be included in the CFL registered agent contract to prevent them from negotiating with teams in other leagues for players under contract in the CFL. In this case, the CFL holds all the cards, and would be able to punish the agents by suspending or fining them. The issue then becomes proving that discussions have taken place - not sure how the league could do that.

Actually, that’s what the contract is. And if a player is willing to sit out a season in violation of the terms of his contract, how would a second contract that states that they’ll stick to their player’s contract change that?

Stiffer penalties and threat of litigation provisos should be included in all CFL contracts as a preventative measure, otherwise future AWOL's will be commonplace.

for instance, a clause stipulating that any legal breach be punishable not only from loss of salary, but also a substantial fine and damages from impending lawsuits, including punitive and/or compensatory damages. (not to mention hefty legal fees incurred)

With such penalties in place, a player will think twice before breaking a legally binding agreement.

I think that provisions like these won't change much if anything.

The player contract is a binding commitment. It is an exchange of enforceable promises. If it is violated, the offending party can be sued for damages for breach of contract. And of course, the defendant can defend.

There were issues with Williams' contract in Hamilton. Was his agent properly registered? If not, should the team have dealt with him? Was the player offered a one-year contract as an alternative to the multi-year contract he signed? Was that alternative properly communicated to him?

These questions and others were debatable and indeed they were debated in a legal dispute between the parties. They were answered one way by an arbitrator, then another way in court on appeal. Ultimately, the team and the player and the players' association all reached an out of court settlement of the dispute.

Increasing fines and other consequences for breaking a contract won't change the situation where the issue in question is whether the contract was in fact broken or was even valid in the first place. Tighter and more careful administration might be a surer way to reduce the likelihood of similar disputes in future.

As stevehvh mentioned, there were disputes over the validity of his contract, and eventually the two parties came to a settlement out of court. If penalties for breach had been included in his contract, they wouldn't have come into effect until the legal process was over. Given that this never happened, having been avoided by the settlement, no penalties would have been applied unless stipulated in the settlement.

And I also don't see the CFLPA supporting players being fined for deciding not to play when teams have the right to terminate contracts at any time without notice or penalty.

As well, players are allowed to retire before the end of their contracts. What if, instead of stating that he is sitting out the year, a player states that he is retiring? At the end of the term of his contract, he could then "come out of retirement" as a free agent and sign anywhere he wants. Would this be better than the player sitting out the year? Would it be any different?

[b]stevehvh wrote: Increasing fines and other consequences for breaking a contract won't change the situation where the issue in question is whether the contract was in fact broken or was even valid in the first place. Tighter and more careful administration might be a surer way to reduce the likelihood of similar disputes in future.[/b]
In such cases where the contract in question is ambiguous or invalid, yes I am in full agreement.

However, in cases where said contract is clearly binding, clauses dictating severe damages/penalties for breach may go a long way to deter those who contemplate discarding their legal obligations.

Well, it certainly makes for a way better hypothetical than your McDonald's - Burger King analogy.

Yes, but valid contracts are already something you can sue on for breach. And while increasing penalties for breach beyond those provided by law through damages awarded in court might possibly deter someone from violating the contract, they might just as well deter someone from signing the contract in the first place.

If I were a player’s agent or lawyer and I saw a contract that provided for penalties well beyond common law remedies, I’d be very cautious about advising the player to sign it.

First of all, I’d wonder why it was thought necessary to include such penalties. There are no cases of breach in the CFL that I know of that call for this sort of extraordinary measure in response. The Williams case was not such a case: the case was settled and in the end there was no finding that he had breached his contract at all; indeed the last court decision on that one indicated the contract was invalid and so there was no breach. I’m not aware of other cases where a player breached his contract and bailed out to play football elsewhere. So who exactly is it that the CFL is thinking must be “contemplating discarding their legal obligations”?

Secondly, I’d point out that even if such a thing were to happen, the CFL team could not only sue the player, but could also sue the other league/team (and any agents involved) for intentional interference in contractual relations.

Thirdly, I’d note that increasing penalties for breach of contract would only serve to highlight and increase the imbalance between team and player rights under the already one-sided CFL contract. Not only can the team release you at any time with no consequences (up until the cutoff date in September), but now they want you to be committed to them beyond the ordinary legal remedies. This seems extreme and unfair.

I think at the end of the day I’d say that this kind of provision is a remedy in search of a problem, a sledge hammer to swat a fly–only there’s no fly, as far as I can see.

But then, I’m not a player agent.

Good luck to Chris Williams!

At the time of the dispute, I think I remember comments that the Cats were being encouraged by the League to stand firm rather than do what I thought was the obvious thing and give him a release to pursue the NFL and preserve the goodwill.

Since then there have been some other releases by other teams to allow players to pursue NFL opportunities. I hope if another sitation like this comes up, the Cats do the same.

Add a financial penalty!

Y'all are forgetting that the NFL has been propping up the CFL for many years to keep the league afloat so they will have a farm league for their player needs.

With the failure of NFL Europe, last thing the NFL wants is the CFL going belly up, not good for the image of gridiron football and the beauty of the CFL to the NFL is that it's no threat at all for taking away a market unless the NFL is that desperate it needs Toronto for one of it's franchises, or any Canadian city, and it's not that desperate at all I would say.

That ended when the league repaid the loan. That is why they were able to end the "NFL signing window" before the option year in a player's contract.

The nfl moved franchises to kill the CFL expansion USA venture as well as fighting the expansion in US courts. . now why would the NFL worry about the CFL grounded in the USA?

CFL settled out of court

I'm curios what franchises were moved?... the only thing the NFL opposed was the name Baltimore Colts
Your gonna need a source on your accusations

Those situations happened because the players, agents, and teams agreed to the release because they were done in the proper manner. CW acted like a spoiled brat because he didn't get what he wanted, negotiated with NFL teams while still under contract to the Ti-Cats, and refused to report to training camp at the start of the season after the team proposed a long-term contract extension to make him the highest-paid non-QB Import in the league. He wanted on thing and one thing only - to play in the NFL.

"negotiated with NFL teams while still under contract to the Ti-Cats"
Link, please.

I think it is an assumption. Otherwise the Ti-Cats could have taken him to court.