Brad Holmes: Detroit Lions ‘tried to make it work’ with Jamaal Williams, ‘it just didn’t happen’

Detroit Free Press

PHOENIX — The Detroit Lions went into free agency so intent on re-signing Jamaal Williams they “didn’t really even really consider another running back” at a higher price point, general manager Brad Holmes said Monday.

And while Williams blasted the Lions for making him a “disrespectful offer” in his introductory news conference after signing with the New Orleans Saints, Holmes said the Lions only pivoted to David Montgomery after Williams lingered on the market for more than a day and the price for other backs settled in near “the amount of resources that we set aside for Jamaal.”

“From a budgeting and planning standpoint pre-free agency, we had an allotment of resources set aside, really for Jamaal,” Holmes said Monday at the NFL’s annual meeting. “Didn’t really even really consider another running back higher than that amount of resources that we set aside for Jamaal. And business happens and that’s part of this business and it just didn’t work.

“We tried, but when the market crystallized and it got to a point where David was in play, kind of within the range of resources that we had set aside, then that’s when we went ahead and went forward with David, which we’re extremely excited about.”

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The Lions signed Montgomery to a three-year, $18 million deal after offering Williams a similar contract in free agency.

Holmes said he talked with Williams’ agent at the NFL combine earlier this month and left convinced the two sides were “heading in the right direction” on a contract extension.

Williams, who said during the season he wanted to stay in Detroit, offered a different take after signing a three-year, $12 million deal with the Saints.

“They been done with me. I could tell,” Williams told New Orleans reporters at his introductory news conference, via NFL.com. “The offer they gave me I feel like was very just disrespectful and just showing that they really didn’t want me to be there like that. But it’s all love. I know my teammates, everybody there at the Detroit Lions have love for me and all that, but at the same time, it’s just we couldn’t come to terms on things. It’s just funny is all.”

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Williams, who Holmes said he prioritized as a free agent target before taking the GM job in 2021, led the Lions with 1,066 yards rushing and set a franchise record with 17 rushing touchdowns last season. He was well-liked in the locker room and a fan favorite for his fun-loving personality.

Montgomery called Williams “a great player” at his introductory news conference, but said, “I’m not here to be him. I’m here to be me. I know I can bring a lot to the table.”

The Chicago Bears leading rusher in three of the past four seasons, Montgomery has been one of the most durable backs in the NFL since entering the league as a third-round pick out of Iowa State in 2019.

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He has at least 200 carries in each of his four NFL seasons, and had 915 rushes for 3,609 yards in his Bears career.

Holmes said Montgomery was a focal point of the Lions’ defense when playing the Bears the past two seasons, and all indications are Montgomery will play a lead role in a Detroit backfield that also returns D’Andre Swift this fall.

“He’s a very good football player,” Holmes said. “He’s a hard guy to bring down. I mean, ever since college and Iowa State, he’s always kind of been at the top of forced tackles missed. He’s just, he’s a hard guy, he’s a tough runner, he’s good in the passing game, he’s a good runner. So he’s a great addition, but definitely, we tried to make it work with Jamaal and it just didn’t happen.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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