Williams was a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year in 2010 after seeing his career rejuvenated by getting a second chance with Pete Carroll and the Seahawks following flops in Detroit and Oakland. But Williams could never develop a connection with new quarterback Tarvaris Jackson in 2011 and his season was cut short by a broken left ankle.
"We would like to thank Mike for his contributions over the past two seasons and we wish him well in the future," Seattle general manager John Schneider said in a statement.
When Seattle signed Sidney Rice before the start of the 2011 season, the belief was that Rice and Williams gave the Seahawks two of the top big receivers in football. Williams was coming off a 2010 season when he caught 65 passes for 751 yards and two touchdowns and was rewarded with a three-year extension that paid him $1.75 million in base salary in 2011 and was scheduled to pay him $3 million in 2012.
But the connection Williams had with Matt Hasselbeck in 2010 never materialized with Jackson. Williams caught just 18 passes for 236 yards and one touchdown in 2011. He never had more than four receptions in a game and was shut out four times in the 12 games he played as Rice and rookie Doug Baldwin became the more favored targets for Jackson.
The decision by the Seahawks to trade for tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. might have been the final sign that Williams' time in Seattle was coming to an end. With Winslow and Zach Miller, the Seahawks are likely to use more two tight end sets and limit the need for a second taller receiver on the outside.
The release of Williams leaves Seattle's receiver situation in complete flux heading into training camp. Rice is coming off surgeries on both shoulders in the offseason. Baldwin became the first undrafted rookie since the merger to lead his team in receiving with 51 receptions for 788 yards, but was used mostly in the slot and not on the outside. Golden Tate showed flashes late in the 2011 season of the talent that made him a second-round pick in 2010. Tate had 19 of his 35 receptions in the final five weeks of the season. Ben Obomanu caught a career-high 37 passes last season, while Seattle still has high hopes for 2011 fourth-round pick Kris Durham, who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury.