The Buffalo Bills surprisingly landed the biggest non-Peyton Manning fish in free agency, as the first overall pick in the 2006 draft, Mario Williams, has reportedly agreed to sign a six-year deal worth up to $100 million, with a whopping $50 million guaranteed.
Williams had been compared to Reggie White as the rare dynamic and relatively young pass-rush threat to hit free agency. White surprisingly landed with the Green Bay Packers, showing small market teams could still be players in the new era of free agency. The Bills haven’t made the playoff since after the 1999 season, but Williams become the biggest still-good name to sign with them since perhaps Bryce Paup in the mid-1990s.
As a player, Williams is probably a lot closer to Paup than White. He ended both of the past two seasons on injured reserve. While he should make a full recovery from the torn pectoral injury that ended his 2011 season after only five games, his star hasn’t burned quite as brightly since he had back-to-back seasons of 14.0 and 12.0 sacks his second and third years in the league. The Texans also played excellent defense both with and without him in 2011.
Still, Williams’ acqusition gives the Bills perhaps the best starting defensive line in the league to aid their ongoing transition back to the 4-3. He joins defensive tackles Marcel Dareus, the third overall pick in last year’s draft who showed signs of coming on and becoming a dominant force later in the season, and Kyle Williams, another player who played only five games in 2011 but whose statistics, like Justin Smith’s, don’t reflect his truly outstanding level of performance. The other defensive end, Chris Kelsay, is the member of the quartet older than 28 and isn’t great, but should benefit from the attention paid his three first-rate linemates.
The Bills probably need to upgrade the back seven some more to be a consistently elite defense, but this move still greatly strengthens a defensive line unit that led the team to the top of the AFC East before Kyle Williams went down and sooner or later should bring the Bills their first postseason appearance of the millennium.