According to ESPN.com's Adam Schefter, Williams and Miami agreed to a two-year deal. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald confirmed the report. Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports reported the contract was worth $17 million, with $3 million in incentives, bringing the possible total to $20 million.
The Dolphins confirmed the deal later Tuesday.
When asked how it felt to join the Dolphins, Williams told ESPN's Josina Anderson, "it feels rejuvenating."
Miami Dolphins @MiamiDolphins
Welcome to Miami, Mario Williams! #StrongerTogether https://t.co/14DcNkLARL3/9/2016, 3:30:27 AM
The four-time Pro Bowler recorded just 19 tackles and five sacks last year, both ranking among the worst full-season numbers of his career. It was a near-constant struggle for Williams to fit into Bills head coach Rex Ryan's system, which resulted in a series of negative public comments.
"We didn't have—at least I feel like for myself—we didn't have common ground as far as give-and-take on the scheme," Williams told Anderson (via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com). "I have no problem listening, but like I said, at least have us doing half of the snaps of what we do best, and that's us going [on attack] and the guys in the [secondary] can cover."
Williams' unwillingness (or inability) to make adjustments for the betterment of the team drew some criticism behind the scenes.
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“It’s been clear to me that Mario doesn’t care about anybody but himself,” a teammate told Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News. “He followed that up by not giving any effort during the season and complaining about the scheme instead of manning up and saying he played like crap and doesn’t care."
Jeff Darlington of the NFL Network reported "Bills players told me they saw a teammate in Mario Williams who gave up on them."
Williams' criticisms had some merit. The Bills went from leading the NFL in sacks in 2014 to finishing 31st last season. Their 21 sacks were less than half of their total a year prior. Buffalo also ranked 24th in Football Outsiders' defensive DVOA metric (defense-adjusted value over average) a year after finishing second. Ryan's blitz-heavy scheme never quite meshed with the Bills personnel, and that's a failing of the coaching staff as much or more than it is of the players.
The Dolphins may be getting a version of Williams ready to bounce back to Pro Bowl form. The North Carolina State product recorded 38 sacks in his first three seasons in Buffalo and had double-digit sacks in each campaign. He was a Pro Bowler in both 2013 and 2014 and made consecutive All-Pro teams for the first time in his career.
The Dolphins may look to Williams as a cheaper alternative to free agent Olivier Vernon. Vernon received the team's transition tag earlier this offseason, which gives Miami the right to match any long-term offer. However, that may have just been a move designed to buy time so it could sort out the defensive line and move on.
If Miami wants to keep Vernon and Williams, it might wind up with one of the fiercest defensive lines in football. The Dolphins ranked 25th in sacks last season despite their offseason signing of Ndamukong Suh. Combining Suh with Williams and Vernon would create the type of line that should consistently draw pressure.
At the least, the Dolphins will likely be choosing between Vernon and Cameron Wake in the coming days. Wake is due a base salary of $8.28 million in 2016 and is coming off a torn Achilles.
Before Ryan's arrival, Buffalo's $96 million investment in Williams seemed to be paying off. He might have been due for a restructuring in 2016, but he'd performed well enough his first three years to keep himself among the NFL's highest-paid linemen. Heading into his age-31 season, it's amazing how much one down year can change perspectives.
Don't be surprised if Williams is back to receiving praise a year from now.
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