Jason Williams is the kind of depth a team wants at the linebacker position. He is a Jordan Senn-esque player who has been mostly a special teams ace throughout his career, though he has made 4 career starts for the Carolina Panthers in his two seasons with the team. Jason Williams was originally a third round draft choice by the Dallas Cowboys in 2009, playing in 6 games before being waived in November of 2010. His career was mediocre with Dallas, however he came in and made an immediate impact with the Carolina Panthers. He posted 15 tackles, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery in four games with two starts, but then suffered a torn ACL and was put on IR. 2011 was where we saw Jason Williams explode, so to speak. He led the Panthers' special teams with 15 tackles and one forced fumble, and made two starts for Carolina following an injury to Thomas Davis. However, he would get lost in the shuffle of different starting linebackers for Carolina in 2011, where he only made an impact on special teams.
As we all know, the starting linebacker positions are all but decided for 2012. James Anderson is the clear starter at Outside Linebacker, while Jon Beason, Luke Kuechly, and Thomas Davis will all battle for playing time at the remaining two (Thomas Davis will in all likelihood be the odd-man out and we will see some combination of Kuechly and Beason in base packages). These 4 have pretty much guaranteed roster spots, barring injuries. This leaves the remaining 2-3 spots to be fought for between fellow special teamers such as Jordan Senn, Kenny Onatolu, Kion Wilson, and Jason Phillips and pass rushers like Jyles Tucker and Antwan Applewhite (though both of them could make the roster as strictly defensive ends). This does not look good for Jason Williams. While guys like Jason Phillips and Senn have also made starts for the Carolina Panthers, the one advantage for Williams is he has the size and speed to also have an impact as a defensive player. Jordan Senn played well in limited action at linebacker, so I just don't see him not making the roster. It will be an interesting battle to see which linebacker's will show more value than special teams, as nearly all of the other linebackers fighting for a spot have a background in special teams.
For Jason Williams, I'm going to make a bold but similar comparison: James Anderson. James Anderson wasn't always the 16 game starter, tackling machine that he is today. In fact, he sat on the bench for the Panthers for 3 seasons, and was a similar player to Williams, logging special teams tackles and reserve linebacker snaps before becoming the beast of now. James Anderson was also a 3rd round pick by Carolina, who blossomed into one of the better players on the defense. This is what I see in Williams. While he isn't nearly as talented as Anderson nor has he played at that level, he has only been here for two years, one of which he didn't get an offseason with the coaching changes. Physically, Anderson and Williams are identical players in terms of size. Anderson and Williams are the same height, where Williams actually weighs a few pounds more than Anderson.
Will Williams take anyone's job? Probably not. But we have seen many times here in Carolina where the mid-round players really begin to make an impact a few years into their careers. Williams has his work cut out for him, that is for sure. But he could be some valuable depth if he finds his way.