Tiger-Cats did ‘due diligence’ and were ‘satisfied with findings’ to sign mercurial receiver Duke Williams

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Veteran receiver Duke Williams comes to Hamilton with a lot of question marks about his on-field behaviour following last season.

After a controversial year with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2022, Williams signed with the Tiger-Cats during free agency in February. Various incidents saw him throw a helmet at an opposing player during pre-game warmups, for which he was suspended one game, along with allegedly spitting on the same player. During the Riders Labour Day Classic loss to Winnipeg, he was flagged for objectable conduct while injured and in street clothes on the sideline.

“What Duke and I talked about, Duke and I talked about. I think he’s an outstanding person. Hamilton is a place that he wanted to be. Things that happened, those are out there, they’re documented, they’re on film,” president of football operations and head coach Orlondo Steinauer said.

“Everything was taken into consideration. As we did our due diligence on all that, we were satisfied with our findings and we’re excited that he’s a Hamilton Tiger-Cat. I think he’s going to be a great addition.”

Last season was not the first time Williams has run afoul. In 2021, Shawn Lemon accused Williams of spitting on him during the West Semi-Final and Andrew Harris accused the physically imposing pass catcher a week later of eye-gouging Brandon Alexander in the West Final.

The Los Angeles native’s transgressions did not begin during his professional career either. Williams was dismissed from the Auburn University football team for an unspecified violation of team rules in 2015. Despite his past, the Ticats do not seem concerned with Williams’ previous indiscretions.

The six-foot-three, 225-pound pass catcher parlayed his impressive initial CFL run in 2017 and 2018 into a two-year NFL stint with Buffalo. Williams played in five games with the Bills in 2019 and 2020, catching 12 passes for 166 yards and one touchdown. He scored the game-winning TD in his first game with the team, a 14-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

Williams was on and off the roster multiple times during his time in Western New York and was released by Buffalo in August 2021. It did not take him long to find a new home as he signed with the Riders in October that year for the remainder of the season. He would re-sign with Saskatchewan for the following season despite the incidents that occurred during his two playoff appearances with the green and white.

Last year Williams missed 10 games due to injuries, during eight games on the field he recorded 29 receptions for 480 yards and four touchdowns. The Ticats are betting Williams can regain his all-star form without being a distraction.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.