The biggest free-agent acquisition in Buffalo Bills history is a reality.
The Bills have an agreement with Houston Texans defensive end Mario Williams on a six-year contract, a source close to the negotiations told The News. Another source said the contract includes $50 million in guaranteed money. ESPN reports the overall package is worth up to $100 million.
The deal makes Williams the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history and caps an intensive recruiting effort that lasted about 44 hours. Williams' contract eclipses the deal Chicago gave to Julius Peppers two years ago. That one included $42 million in guaranteed money and was worth $91.5 million. Peppers' contract averages $15.25 million. Williams' deal will surpass that. The Bills have scheduled a 1:45 p.m. news conference.
Williams, 27, gives the Bills their most accomplished pass rusher since Bruce Smith left the team after the 2000 season. Williams, 6-foot-7 and 290 pounds, has 53 sacks over 5 1-3 seasons as a pro.
Williams flew his fiance into town at midday Wednesday. The two wanted to scout out housing in Western New York before agreeing to any deal, a source told The News.
The deal is a milestone in the 52-year history of the Bills. In the 20 years the NFL has used an unrestricted free-agent system, the biggest Buffalo signing was a $7 million-a-year deal given to guard Derrick Dockery in 2007. That move flamed out, as Dockery lasted only two seasons in Buffalo. Williams comes to the Bills with a far superior pedigree and track record.
Before the free-agency era, the Bills’ highest-profile acquisition outside of the draft was a 1987 trade for star linebacker Cornelius Bennett that included three teams, three players and three draft picks. Bennett was the No. 2 pick of the draft that year. While his five-year, $3.5 million contract was big at the time, it didn’t make him the highest-paid defensive player in the league. He also didn’t hit town as the best player at his position in the league.
That’s the reputation Williams brings. The Bills are counting on Williams to be the key piece in the rehabilitation of their defense, which ranked 26th last season.
Williams has the ability to dominate games. He was the first overall pick in the 2006 draft out of North Carolina State. He’s coming off an injury-shortened season in which he played only the first five games (and had five sacks). He went on the injured-reserve list for the rest of the year with a torn pectoral muscle, which is healed.
Williams had 14 sacks in 2007, 12 in 2008, nine in 2009 and 8.5 in 2010. Houston would have loved to retain him, but the Texans entered free agency with only about $1 million in space under the salary cap and had no chance to strike a deal.
The Bills have two high-quality defensive tackles in Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams. Adding Williams to the right end spot would give them a potentially dominant defensive front. Veteran Chris Kelsay is the returning starter at left defensive end. The Bills are hoping linebacker Shawne Merriman can recover from an Achilles tendon injury and be a situational pass rusher. They are likely to add a pass-rush prospect in the draft, as well.
Williams was back at One Bills Drive this morning after spending an second night in Western New York.