With Foster locked up for five years, what happens to Williams?
Conventional wisdom says Houston will use their franchise tag on Williams, the No. 1 overall pick in 2007. He has been one of the league's best pass-rushers for five years and proved before getting injured that he was versatile enough to play linebacker in a 3-4 system.
If Williams hits the open market, he is expected to receive the largest contract for a defensive player in league history. Logically then, Houston should use their franchise tag to hold onto Williams for at least another year.
But Houston's situation isn't so clear cut. Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin filled in admirably for Williams after his injury, combining for 17.5 sacks. With or without Williams, Houston has one of the league's best defenses. With that being the case, it's no certainty that the Texans will break the bank to bring him back.
There are other factors to consider here as well. Houston now has big money locked into three offensive players (Foster, Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub), so while they may be set for the short-term they'll have to leave some cap space available to lock up some of their younger players.
While Williams is valuable, is he worth risking holdouts by guys like Brian Cushing, Owen Daniels or Chris Myers?
While it violates the spirit of the rule, Houston is technically allowed to use their tag on Williams with the intention of trading him. From a cap perspective this is probably the best move.
The starting price on Williams would certainly be at least a first-round pick, and since Houston has proven that they can play without him it might be prudent to use him to stockpile draft picks. Houston doesn't have many holes, but an extra first round pick would help fill the ones they do have.
Houston has until 4 PM today to make a decision. While all signs point to Houston holding onto their tag, locking up Foster at least gives them the flexibility to use it if they choose to.
How the Texans decide to handle the Mario Williams situation will play a big role in determining how far they go next year.
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