The New York Giants are clearly seriously entertaining the possibility of signing one, or both, of the big-name free agent defensive ends who were recently cut loose by their former teams. But, when it comes to Charles Johnson and Mario Williams, which one is a better fit.
The answer might simply be whichever one will sign on the dotted line first. To get a slightly more sophisticated answer than that, however, I turned to a guy who knows a few things about defensive line play. Stephen White is a former NFL defensive lineman who now contributes his analysis for SB Nation. With the help of e-mailed responses from White, let's briefly break down both players.
A nine-year veteran, the 2007 third-round pick turns 30 in July. He had 63.5 career sacks for the Carolina Panthers, with a career-high 12.5 in 2012. Johnson was a captain and a leader for Carolina, something which can't be discounted on a Giants team that clearly did not have enough leadership on the defensive side of the ball in 2015.
Johnson had only one regular-season sack in nine 2015 games, missing the middle portion of the season due to a hamstring injury. Johnson, though, had sacks in each of Carolina's three playoff games, including one in the Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos.
"Older but he could roll out of bed and get pressure on the QB. Strictly a LDE but he can still play all three downs and make an impact. Health concerns are legit though so he would have to do well on his physical. Finished strong in the playoffs."
Johnson would probably cost the Giants somewhat less than Williams though he won't be cheap to sign.
The 31-year-old first pick in the 2006 NFL Draft has 96 career sacks. He got only five of those last season after compiling 38 in his first three seasons with the Buffalo Bills. Williams is known as a guy who can be dominant when he wants to be, but can also sometimes be disinterested. He complained about Rex Ryan's defensive scheme with the Bills. The trick is to figure out how much Williams has left. The gamble is that his reputation indicates he may not always give you the best of whatever he does have in the tank. Still, the upside with a four-time Pro Bowler who has five double-digit sack seasons in a 10-year career is obvious.
"Is still a good pass rusher ... when he wants to be. It was apparent last year that at some point he stopped gaf because he was not happy in Rex's scheme. Still flashed, though, on third and long when allowed to rush the edge. He is a LDE only, too, at this point, not gonna give you as much against the run as Johnson probably unless he is super motivated, but the Giants still like to get a rush with four and he can do that when put in a 4-3.
Indications are that the model for a Williams contract might be the three-year, $30 million contract DeMarcus Ware signed with the Denver Broncos at age 32. You can, of course, argue that Ware, a four-time first-team All-Pro with 134.5 sacks in 11 seasons is a better player than Williams, but the salary cap has gone up dramatically since that deal was signed. WA Williams contract could well surpass the one Ware signed.
So, Giants fans, which guy would you prefer?