One of the biggest names dropped into free agency is Mario Williams, released by the Buffalo Bills mostly for his attitude and less in regards to his ability. Now, the former number one overall pick is going to be chased by teams desperate for some pass-rush, thinking the 31-year old Williams can help them.
Williams had just five sacks in his fourth season with the Bills, openly venting his frustration with the way he was used under Rex Ryan. Williams was often dropped into coverage which isn’t something he likes, and some think he quit on the team at some point. He had 38 sacks in the previous three seasons at Buffalo, which include two Pro Bowl selections and one All-Pro selection. In 10 NFL seasons and 145 games, playing mostly as a defensive end but some outside linebacker too, Williams has 96 sacks, and seven seasons of 8 or more.
The Giants were 30th last season in sacks. The Falcons 32nd. The Chargers 24th. These are all teams that have made it clear they’ll be trying to improve their pass-rush situation this offseason and with Williams suddenly available, have a chance to sign a proven and productive defensive end on what might a value deal. Williams’ cap hit for 2016 was going to be$19.9 million, but considering his age and track record, he’s probably going to be getting offers for $40-50 million over four years or so.
The Giants have around $60 million in cap space to work with, so they’re not going to be shy of spending it on free agents, although pass rush isn’t the only thing they need to worry about defensively, but the formidability of their defensive line was a key component of their Super Bowl runs in 2007 and 2011, and results were evident when that unit declined over the years, failing to make the playoffs in the last four seasons.
The Falcons have about $26 million in cap space and might be looking at a bigger number if Roddy White isn’t the last player released. They might feel that Williams could be something of a mentor to younger players they have developing like Vic Beasley, although their most immediate concern is the offensive line, which might make Williams a bit too expensive to their tastes.
The Chargers have plenty of cap space as well to work with and an offensive line issue too. But they’re in more of a win now mode than the Falcons and probably better set up for it, so adding someone like Williams who can contribute right away, even if he might be on the decline, could look very tempting, although something of a risk.