NFL front offices often misjudge talent, and you could make a strong case the Jacksonville Jaguars dropped the ball when they waived linebacker Quincy Williams in 2021. Fast Forward to 2023, and Williams earned a First-Team All-Pro designation as a member of the New York Jets. In hindsight, the Jags made a mistake by moving on from Williams but it's fair to wonder if the Murray St. product would've put it all together if he had stayed in Jacksonville.
A third-round pick in the 2019 draft, Williams appeared in 18 games with eight starts in his first two NFL seasons. In that span, he didn't make enough plays to make you think he would develop into a future All-Pro. The fact that the Jaguars fired general Dave Caldwell, the man who drafted Williams, in 2020 didn't help his case. Having inherited him and without any attachment, Trent Baalke released Williams before the start of the 2021 season.
Williams says that he'll never forget the feeling of being fired. Fortunately for him, he was going to get a second chance. Jets head coach Robert Saleh, then with the San Francisco 49ers, listed Williams as one of his favorite linebackers entering the 2019 draft, so New York quickly swooped in and picked him off waivers. The next is history.
In Jets uniform, Williams was able to reach his potential. The past three years, he's posted 242 total tackles, seven sacks, five forced fumbles, one interception, and 16 passes defensed in 44 games. While his performance in the 2023 season wasn't enough to warrant a Pro Bowl selection, All-Pro voters wasted no time acknowledging his impact, naming him First-Team. That's pretty much the highest recognition a player can get.
This begs the question, should Trent Baalke be kicking himself for not recognizing Williams' value? Maybe, but not that much.
Quincy Williams is the one that got away for the Jaguars
When the Jags moved on from Quincy Williams, he wasn't an All-Pro nod. Instead, he was battling for a roster spot behind Myles Jack, Damian Wilson, Shaquille Quarterman, and Chapelle Russell. He ended up being the odd man out. Jack, Wilson, and Russell were gone in 2022, so it's fair to say that Jacksonville could've used Williams. But as noted before, Williams hadn't hit his stride yet.
Before landing in New York, Williams didn't always show great technique, often getting caught off position and overpursuing when tackling. In his own words, he's nowadays in control of his speed. Getting where he is at right now wasn't a one-day process and many things had to fall into place. Had he not been waived by the Jags, he might not have had the motivation to prove his doubters wrong. Getting lowballed by the Jets also fueled him and motivated him to give his best.
Last but not least, the Jets were the right place for Williams to develop. He was a better fit in the 4-3 defense than he would've been in Joe Cullen's 3-4 defense in 2021. There's a chance Williams may not have developed into an All-Pro had he remained in Jacksonville. All the things he went through molded him and helped him become that player.
If there's any consolation is that things have worked out fine for the Jaguars. They have a pair of playmakers at linebacker in Foyesade Oluokun and Devin Lloyd. The former has become a locker room leader and the latter is quickly becoming a mainstay of the defense. Together, they give Jacksonville a dynamic tandem at the position. While neither one is an All-Pro like Williams, neither one is a slouch, and both seem to be part of the team's plans for years to come.