The Houston Texans have a tough decision to make this offseason with regards to Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams.
Williams has been a cornerstone of the defense for the past five seasons and will undoubtedly be looking for a substantial contract.
With the Texans needing to re-sign Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster as well, there may not be enough money to go around.
Williams has been a consistent producer when he’s on the field, but nagging injuries always keep him from playing an entire season. His torn pectoral muscle this season left the Texans to play the majority of the season without him.
Although any team is obviously better with Mario Williams on the roster, the Texans did not seem to have any drop-off in pass-rushing production without him.
Rookie linebacker Brooks Reid stepped in and filled the spot admirably, and fellow rookie J.J. Watt has become one of the Texans’ and NFL’s best past rushers.
The Texans have the option of placing their franchise tag on Williams this season, but the move would cost them about $21 million against the cap. Even if they sign him to a long-term deal, they will be on the hook for $10-15 million per year or more.
As much as the Texans organization and its fans love Williams, it may not be feasible to keep him. And general manager Rick Smith will have to ask the simple question of how much better is the defense with him.
The answer is, not much.
Again, while any team is going to be better with Williams than without, the Texans simply can’t improve that much with his services. They are more in need of secondary help than another pass rusher.
The Texans’ best bet is to try to pull off some type of sign and trade deal with Williams to collect as many draft picks as they can.
Cleveland and Washington could both benefit tremendously from Williams’ services, and their first round pick could bring top cornerback Morris Claiborne to Houston for a lot less money and cap space than Williams, and still allow the Texans to use their late first round pick on a No. 2 wide receiver to complement Andre Johnson.
The bottom line is that the Texans and their fans should start preparing for life after Mario, and Smith should be doing everything in his power to get some value in exchange for his Pro Bowl defensive end.