NFL Free Agency: The Ramifications of Mario Williams's Deal with Buffalo Bills
The Bills have signed Williams to a six-year deal that is estimated to be in the $100 million range, with $50 million guaranteed, according to this report from Jason La Canfora of NFL Network. That would make Williams the first $100 million defensive man in league history.
Pairing Mario Williams with defensive tackles Marcell Dareus and All-Pro Kyle Williams gives the Bills as formidable a defensive line as any other NFL team can boast.
The Bills flew Williams into Buffalo on Tuesday, which was the opening day of free agency. Even though other NFL teams were anxious to talk to Williams, the Bills continued to keep Williams engaged for three days and flew his fiance up to learn more about western New York. The couple has already started looking locally for a new home.
There are a number of ramifications to this deal, so let's explore the impact that signing Mario Williams makes in detail.
Much-Improved Pass Rush
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At 6'6" and 290 pounds, Williams is a very difficult physical force to contain, as evidenced by his 55 sacks he has created in his six-year NFL career.
The pressure that he brings off the end will result in his own high sack total, but it will also result in forcing the quarterback into the arms of the other Bills defensive linemen, raising the overall group totals in general.
From a historical perspective, the Bills' pass rush has been in the bottom half of the NFL for the past five years running.
The Bills had 29 sacks in 2011 (ranking No. 27), 27 sacks in 2010 (No. 27), 32 sacks in 2009 (No. 18), 24 sacks in 2008 (No. 28) and 26 sacks in 2007 (No. 29). The last time the Bills had a decent sack total was in 2006, when they had 40 sacks and were ranked No. 8 in the NFL.
Putting More Pressure on the Quarterback
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It is one thing to improve the sacks total of the defense; it is something else to improve the overall pressure. So many times in the last five years, Bills fans have watched the opposing quarterback (Tom Brady, Chad Henne, Mark Sanchez) have all day to stand in the pocket and go through the progressions until they find a wide open receiver.
By increasing the pressure on the quarterback, they will have less time to throw and will be forced into more mistakes. The Bills have enough talent in the secondary that they should be able to take advantage of hurried passes and ultimately turn them into interceptions.
Even if a hurried pass falls harmlessly to the ground or sails over everybody's head and goes out of bounds, whatever allows the Bills defense to get off the field sooner is a good development.
Gives the Bills More National Respect and Exposure
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Mario Williams was named to the All-Pro team in 2007 and in 2008. He was also named to the Pro Bowl in 2008 and 2009.
For the Bills to land a player that has that kind of credibility and acclaim, it does wonders from the standpoint of helping the Bills recruit other star players that want to be part of the transformation in Buffalo.
The transformation began when the Bills claimed Shawne Merriman off of waivers from San Diego. Of course, Merriman hasn't been able to make a major impact on the field yet for the Bills, but he has made an impact on recruiting, as he helped the Bills land linebackers Nick Barnett and Kirk Morrison in 2011.
Now with Williams in the fold, you know that the ability to recruit big-name players with strong pedigrees will be that much easier going forward. By adding more quality players, the ability for the Bills to turn losing seasons into winning seasons will become easier.
Once you become a winning team, it also makes it easier to recruit other star players who want a shot at the playoffs.
Signing of Mario Williams Gives Bills More National Credibility
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All of the Bills' faithful fans have just wanted owner Ralph Wilson and general manager Buddy Nix to do whatever was possible to bring a winner to Buffalo.
For many years it felt to the faithful that Ralph Wilson was holding onto the purse strings too tightly and not allowing the Bills front office the resources needed to produce a winning team.
The signing of Mario Williams takes that whole issue and blows it out of the water. Williams is the type of big-splash free-agent signing that is akin to when the Green Bay Packers signed free agent Reggie White.
This is the kind of deal that should stop the national talking heads from snickering when they talk about the Buffalo Bills. I have always loathed that, so signing Mario Williams and ultimately getting the Bills back to the playoffs is the fastest way to stop the laughing and all the jokes.
More Prime Time Appearences
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As the Bills defense improves and becomes more of a dominating unit—leading to more wins and a winning record—it then will lead to more nationally-televised prime time games, which is been something that hasn't happened in some time.
The NFL announced the addition of more Thursday night games on their schedule, assuring every team would be featured on prime time.
When national audiences start viewing the way that the Bills defense is playing, the national attitude or impression of the Bills team will start changing as well.
Impact on the Draft
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The Mario Williams signing places less emphasis on Buddy Nix to address the pass rush.
While the need to improve the pass rush may have been paramount with the overall No. 10 pick in the upcoming draft, Williams' signing gives Buddy Nix the freedom now to go in different directions with that pick.
While Nix might have been tempted to draft a Quinton Coples, Courtney Upshaw or Melvin Ingram type of player before, now he might look at a left tackle like Riley Reiff or draft a wide receiver like Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd.
Or it could give Nix the ability to not feel that he has to reach for a player, making him more willing to trade back down in the first round to acquire additional draft picks.
If Defense Gets off the Field Faster, Offense Will Have the Ball More
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With an improved pass rush, the Bills defense should be getting off of the field much faster than they were in the past three years. The quicker the defense gets off the field, the more time that the offense will have the ball.
The more time the offense has the ball, the greater the chances that they can improve their 2011 average of scoring 23.3 points per game, which ranked the No. 14 in the NFL.
In the AFC East, it will be fun to watch the Bills turn their pass rush loose on Tom Brady, Mark Sanchez and whoever the Miami Dolphins decide will be their starting quarterback in 2012.
Now that the Bills have signed Williams, the Bills front office can look at potential options for a starting tackle and wide receiver, while also adding another corner.
There was a report yesterday that the Bills were in talks with Super Bowl hero wide receiver Mario Manningham, as per a tweet from ESPN's Adam Schefter. The only problem with signing Manningham is the confusion it would create in the locker room when somebody yells out "Super Mario."
This Deal Was a Combined Effort of the Bills Franchise and Bills Nation
The Bills pulled out all the stops in courting Mario Williams.
On Tuesday evening, the team brought Kyle Williams along to give the two Pro Bowl defensive linemen a chance to interact and establish some degree of comfort. Both men are avid hunters, so they took the topic and ran with it.
On Wednesday, Jim Kelly hosted Mario at his home and cooked chicken wings for him. They were apparently watching the hunting channel as well. Seems like there is a strong hunting theme going forward.
Of course, there will be some hunting for quarterbacks going on every Sunday in the fall.
On Wednesday evening, the Bills took Mario Williams to a Buffalo Sabres game and the crowd started a "We Want Mario" chant. That is a great way to welcome the newest Buffalo Bill to the community.
Can Williams Lead the Bills to the Playoffs?
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Here is a picture of Mario Williams sacking Tom Brady. We should expect to seeing this scenario recreated multiple times over the years to come.
The Bills hold the embarrassing record of not having qualified for the playoffs in the last 12 years. While the Bills would like to end that streak in 2012, it is only a matter of time before the Bills have completed their rebuilding effort and reached their goal of being an annual playoff team again—like they were in the 1990's.
By adding the No. 1 overall draft pick from the 2006 draft, the Bills have found the impact player that the team identified as the difference maker they were missing on the roster.
As many NFL games as there are that come down to a couple of key plays, the ability that Williams has to improve the defense should help the Bills bridge the gap to become a playoff team again.
Hats off to the entire Buffalo Bills organization for keeping their patience and staying with Mario Williams throughout the process. The Buffalo community can feel proud about this signing and use this as a rallying point to be "Talking Proud" again.