But, if not for Allen forsaking a shot at a Super Bowl with the Seahawks for a few dollars more in Chicago, Williams likely would not have gotten the chance.
The Seahawks pursued Allen last March, but they were not willing to pay him more than they were paying Michael Bennett ($7 million a year), and Allen got another $1 million a year from the Bears.
In June, the Hawks instead signed Allen’s former Vikings teammate, giving the 34-year-old Williams a one-year deal worth $2.1 million.
“I actually thought he was going to come up here (to Seattle),” Williams said. “I thought it was pretty much in the bag.”
But Allen didn’t, and now Williams is in the Super Bowl while Allen, who lives in Phoenix, will be cheering his former teammate on against the Patriots on Sunday.
Williams, the ninth overall pick of the 2003 draft by Minnesota, has been one of the best defensive linemen of the last generation — chosen to six Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams and also named to the NFL’s team of the 2000s. He had been to the playoffs four times but never reached the Super Bowl. That’s why he chose to sign with the reigning Super Bowl champs.
“Yeah, having a chance to get into the playoffs, win some games,” said Williams, who picked the Seahawks over the Patriots. “I didn’t have that luxury up in Minnesota the last few years. We were up and down, up and down. And to come here with a team that’s as solid as we have here and to win as many games as we have and be going to the Super Bowl, that’s what (I) came here for.”
Michael Bennett said, “I told him that ‘It’s about time you stop playing for the losing team and play for the winning team.’ It’s good for Kevin to get a chance to be in this situation. It’ll be new to him, but since we’ve already been in this situation, we’ll coach him up about not worrying too much about the media. It’s really about the game. The rest of this stuff is just fun.”
“It’s huge, man,” Williams added. “Being my 12th season and able to get to this point is tremendous. … You get the contracts, you can play for the Pro Bowl; but, to be able to play in the Super Bowl, I think that’s the ultimate goal. And being able to do that with this great group of guys is huge for me.”
The Hawks initially planned for Williams to be part of their fairly deep D-line rotation, which included Bennett, Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel, Jordan Hill, Cassius Marsh and Greg Scruggs. But Mebane, Hill, Marsh and Scruggs were all lost to injuries at various points of the season.
When Mebane went on injured reserve in November, Williams had to move from 3-technique to nose tackle. After a shaky start against Kansas City, he stepped up and played great. He started eight games — the fewest of his 12-year career — but was every bit as effective as he had been for most of the last five years.
“Mebane is the best nose in the game,” Bennett said, “and that’s hard for (Williams) to come in and play at the level that Mebane has been playing at for the last couple years, but Kevin has done a great job of doing that. The rushing yards have been the same since Mebane has been out, and we’ve still been playing as a great run defense.”
The Hawks finished as the No. 3 defense against the run, giving up 81.5 yards per game. That was better than 2013, when they ranked seventh at 101.6.
When the Seahawks rallied to win the NFC Championship Game, coach Pete Carroll said Williams was one of the people he sought.
“Yeah, he was one of the guys I was really excited to see in the locker room after the game because I know that he had been through the struggles of a full career and he’s been a leader and a great player in the league but never had the opportunity,” Carroll said. “I couldn’t wait to see him and look at him and talk about it. It’s what we had talked about when we recruited him to come — maybe this would be that opportunity — and I always love it when stuff you hope happens comes true.”
Asked if he would view his career any differently if he wins the Super Bowl with the Seahawks, Williams said, “It would be the storybook ending, right? I haven’t even thought past that. I’m excited we made it to the Super Bowl. My focus shifted to trying to get a win against the New England Patriots. I’ll worry about all the other stuff when it’s over.”