Sunday, the Houston Texans will be welcoming back former first-round pick Mario Williams. As most remember, Williams left the Texans in free agency back in March when he accepted a six-year, $96 million contract from the Buffalo Bills to make him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history. Seven months later, are the Texans better off without Williams?
Viewed as a premier pass rushing defensive end, most expected Williams, along with several other additions, to transform the Bills’ defense into one of the league’s most domineering units. So far, the Bills’ D hasn’t come close to living up to that expectation, sporting the league’s 27th ranked defense, 18th against the pass and last (32nd) against the run while allowing a league worst 32.4 points per game. Some, but certainly not all, of the blame has deservedly fallen on Williams, who to date has only recorded 16 tackles and 3.5 sacks. When you pay a guy $96M, you expect him to be a game changer that would produce more than Williams has so far. There is no question that through seven games of their season, the Bills have not gotten their money’s worth for Williams, but there is still five and a half seasons for Super Mario to earn his contract.
Although Williams has been subpar, it is worth wondering if he would have been better off staying in Houston and whether or not the Texans would have a sounder defensive unit then they current do. Regardless of Williams level of play, there is no way he was worth the near $100 million to the Texans. Even if you disregard the fact that the Texans were right up against the salary cap prior to Williams’ free agency, the team had two starters they felt comfortable with in Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed then went out and used their first round draft pick on Whitney Mercilus. All three are younger and much more inexpensive than Williams, and while one could say none of the three have quite played their best football, they’ve done enough to erase any doubt that the Texans should have kept Williams.
However, it’s interesting to speculate Williams’ performance as a 3-4 OLB with the talented Texans defense around him. Williams was excellent through six games a year ago before suffering a season ending torn pectoral muscle, and perhaps would be a better player in the Wade Phillips system than any of Barwin, Reed, or Mercilus currently are.
We will never know what could have been, because money is apparently more important to Williams than winning. He choose to chase the big contract and forfeit contributing to one of the league’s elite defenses. There is no question the Texans made the right move on Williams, he wasn’t worth the money in March and is proving not to be worth it now.
It should be worth watching Williams on Sunday, as fans should expect him to bring his A+ game in an attempt to prove to Texans fans that he was worth the money he left for. But when the Texans improve to an AFC best 7-1 and the Bills fall to 3-5, all parties will get what they want. Williams will head back to his riches in Buffalo while Houston will continue to pile up wins. Money can’t buy that.
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