Mario Williams is not a free agent yet, but let's call this a pre-emptive strike. If and when the seemingly disgruntled star defensive end is cut loose by the Buffalo Bills should the New York Giants jump to the front of what could be a long line of suitors for the four-time Pro Bowler?
Williams, 31, is not happy with the way Rex Ryan employed the defensive front in 2015. The Bills led the league in sacks with 54 in 2014 while Doug Marrone was the head coach. When Ryan took over last season, that total dropped all the way to 21, 31st in the league. How awful was that? The pass-rush deprived Giants were 30th with 23 sacks. Williams, a four-time Pro Bowler who had 14.5 sacks in 2014 and double-digit sacks in each of his first three seasons with the Bills, had only five sacks in 2015.
Here is part of what Williams told ESPN insider Josina Anderson:
"We were building a defense that we can go and shut people down, shut people out, and then all of a sudden everything just changes as far as how the players are used. That's just kind of odd to me. ... I'm not saying that the scheme is wrong, I'm just saying that our strengths could be utilized better. ... In our meetings defensively, especially in our defensive line room, we said, 'Can we go straight? Can we just go? Can we turn it loose?' ...
"It's kind of crazy when you are asked to do something that is totally different, but yet as a whole it didn't work out defensively. ... But yet I'm the one whose production has fallen off? Like, that is why I'm saying, I'm prepared for anything because I know I'm going to prove a point and that is not even a question in my mind.
"At the end of the day, if I'm not there, I'll show you that I'm better than what I've been before. Like, that's just a chip on my shoulder regardless of whether I am there or not, because given the opportunity I'll get back to what I was."
It seems virtually certain that the Bills will move on from Williams before free agency begins March 9, whether they want to or not. Williams has two years remaining on his gargantuan six-year, $96 million contract and his cap hit for 2016 is an unmanageable $19.9 million dollars. On an estimated $154 million salary cap, the Bills have only $1.159 million in cap space. Cutting Williams would save them $12.9 million.
Here is Brian Galliford of SB Nation's Bills website, Buffalo Rumblings, on Williams:
"I don't think there's any scenario in which the Bills find a way to keep Williams. Given how publicly he has complained about Rex Ryan's defensive scheme, and that the team saves a whopping $12.9 million against the cap if they do cut him, it seems a virtual lock that he'll be released.
"The book on Williams is the same as when he was a free agent prior to the 2012 season: when he wants to be great, he's great. He just doesn't turn on the juice as often as he could, and as a result, he's often invisible for long stretches. But when he's invested, and buys into a team and a scheme, he can still play at an elite level.
"I'm not sure what the market will yield for him if he does become a free agent. It'll depend on how much teams, plural, are willing to invest in a 31-year-old who isn't afraid to make a stink. He can still play, though, so I imagine he'd score a significant monetary sum."
Spotrac estimates that Williams' Calculated Market Value as a free agent this offseason would be $5.2 million annually and believes a four-year, $20.8 million contract would be appropriate.
My guess is that Williams, with nearly twice that much money left on his current contract, will be seeking more than that.
We saw in 2015 that veteran pass rushers can still be hugely impactful players. Julius Peppers, at 35, had 10.5 sacks for the Green Bay Packers. Dwight Freeney, 35, had eight sacks in 11 games for the Arizona Cardinals. DeMarcus Ware, 33, had 7.5 sacks in 11 games and just helped the Denver Broncos win a Super Bowl.
If and when he becomes a free agent would you like to see the Giants pursue Williams, who has 96 sacks in his 10-year career, including five double-digit sack seasons? How much would you pay him?