Mario Williams was supposed to be a monster when he entered the NFL. He had the size, speed and skills that had many believing he could be one of the best ever. He was taken first overall in the 2006 NFL Draft out of North Carolina State by the Houston Texans. And immediately, the expectations were heaped upon him. Honestly, there was no way that he was going to live up to what people expected of him. He did have a few good years in Houston, but ultimately, they did not believe he was worth keeping around and opted to build their defense around defensive lineman JJ Watt (which ended up being an excellent decision). Williams signed a huge deal in Buffalo (six years and $96 million with $31.4 million guaranteed) and the buzz was that he was going to return to the form he had in his second and third years in the NFL. His sack totals grew each of the first three years he was there, climbing from 10 sacks the first year to 14.5 sacks in 2014. But this past season he regressed to five sacks in Rex Ryan’s first year as head coach. The lack of production along with the rumblings of him being unhappy in Buffalo under Ryan will lead to him being officially released very soon. But what are his options and how will he be viewed on the open market.
Williams is a beast of a man lining up at defensive end. Standing at 6’6” and weighing in at 292 pounds, he strikes fear in a lot of offensive linemen. But unfortunately, he does not play like a guy that strikes fear in offensive linemen all the time. He has been known over his career to take some time off on the field and disappear in games like he did this past season. If you are going to sign him, then you have to take a chance that he may disappear again. And with the need for pass rushers in the NFL, someone is going to pay him big money once again. But along with the inconsistency his career has shown, you also have to think about his age. Williams is no spring chicken anymore. He will be entering his 11th season next year (31 years old heading into next season) and there are no guarantees that he can get to the heights that he was at in his first three years in Buffalo. The place where he lands will have to be a 4-3 defense because he is best when he has his hand on the ground rushing off the edge. If he decides to play and show that he still has it, then he could be a steal for a team looking to get any pressure off the edge. Or worst case scenario, he has the potential to be a stain on the salary cap of the team he chooses to sign with. Essentially, an ideal situation would be for him to go to a team that has multiple pass rushers to take some pressure off him with a younger pass rusher to spell him from time to time. But the reality is that he will end up more than likely going to a team that is in desperate need for a pass rush. So with that being said, where are some ideal spots for him?
Williams could be taking his game out West. With defensive end Justin Tuck announcing his retirement, there is a need for Williams in Oakland. Their offense is up and coming, but the defense needs some help. The Raiders would probably prefer to sign a defensive back to help their ailing secondary, but having a pass rush combo of linebacker/defensive end Khalil Mack and Williams would be terribly tough to handle for the rest of the league (provided Williams shows up every week). The team also could pay him an astronomical salary that he would want. That team with the offensive talent they have just needs a defense and they could make some noise and eventually the playoffs. Another team that is up and coming is the Jacksonville Jaguars. They, just like the Raiders, have some budding stars offensively. And just like the Raiders, the Jaguars need defensive help. They play in a division where the Texas (with how bad they were) won the division and the Colts aren’t exactly the most solid-looking team these days. Williams could come in there and lift that defense up if he plays up to his potential. Adding Williams and a cornerback would be huge for Jacksonville in their attempt to get back to relevance. But the last and final team that would fit Williams the best are the Giants. New York missed the playoffs last season and part of that reason was their inability to create a pass rush. With Williams, that problem could be solved. And with the rumblings that the Giants are going to sign back Jason Pierre-Paul, he would take some of the pressure off him to be the main pass rusher for the team. With adding him and maybe some health in the secondary (along with some good pickups there), the Giants could remake their defense to support their offense. And in the NFC East, the Giants have as good a chance as anyone to win that division, especially with the only quarterback currently in the division that has won a title. And of the three teams mentioned, they have the best shot to win the title.
Mario Williams is likely about to sign his last big contract once he is officially released from the Buffalo Bills. And where he signs, there will be pressure on him to perform and win. Time is running out on his career and the next place he signs, he has to be present and not disappear like he did in this past season. It will be interesting to see where he lands and what they give him to come there.