It's too bad that character and class doesn't count for more in today's NFL. If that were the case, Madieu Williams would probably be the best player in the league.
But as the old cliché goes: this is a business.
The business end of things is ultimately what ended Williams' time with the Vikings. After showing promise in his first nine games as a Viking in 2008, a neck injury cut his season short. Williams played in all but two games in 2009 and 2010, but never really regained the form on the field that prompted the Vikings to lure him away from the Cincinnati Bengals. He recorded only one interception in the last two seasons and was often at the wrong end of opponents' long touchdowns. With over $5 million due to him this season, the Vikings front office decided his play wasn't worth the investment with the team so tight against the salary cap.
While the Vikings can probably find a cheaper replacement for Williams on the field, there is nobody quite like him off of it. He was named the 2010 Walter Payton NFL Man Of The Year, mostly for the amazing work he's done in his native Sierra Leone. And for donating $2 million to his alma mater, Maryland. And for helping out with classic charities like the YMCA and United Way. And...well, I think you get the idea of how he won the award by now.
However, he couldn't accept that award in person. Because he was with troops in Iraq on a goodwill tour.
I know his play split the opinions of many a Viking fan, but it's absolutely universal that everyone admired Madieu Williams the person. If there ever was a player to root for well after he leaves your team, it's Madieu.
(You know, as long as he doesn't go to the Packers of course.)