Mario Williams Stay Or Go?
Houston Texans linebacker Mario Williams is about to be a free agent and there’s no way the team will actually let him hit the market, right? That’s what I would think it’s probably what you would think to. He’s one of the best in the league and there’s no way I’d think that defense would let a talent like that go. Peter King of Sports Illustrated thinks differently.
Houston (11-7). Now the question for this franchise is whether they fight to keep free agent outside linebacker/defensive end Mario Williams away from the market. The way this team played defensively at Baltimore, and as many talented young defensive players as the Texans have, and as many guys as they have to think about paying with a flat cap in the next two offseasons, I bet they’re seriously considering letting Williams walk. (Peter King – Sports Illustrate MMQB)
His words do hold some merit as the Texans do have a nice group of youngsters behind Mario. Their two rookies; defensive ends J.J. Watt and linebacker Brooks Reed had a great postseason. The two of them combined for seven sacks in their two games. That shows the defense can get pressure even without Mario. Shoot the entire defense stayed pretty dominant all year after his loss.
Keeping him though, would only make this defense even better. Unfortunately for them the real reason they may not be able to bring him back is money.
“Anybody who knows anything about our team knows how significant Mario’s contribution has been,” GM Rick Smith said. “We would love to have him back. It goes without saying he’s one of our best players.
“We’ve got some constraints with the salary cap, so we’ve got some challenges.” (Houston Chronicle)
The problem is Williams made $18 million this year, even after only playing five games in 2011 you’d expect he’s in for a raise. In his five games he did tally five sacks and a forced fumble. He’s had 53.5 sacks over 82 career games and he’ll only be 27 by the time the season starts. So yes, he’s going to be in for another big payday.
If he wants to stay he’ll probably need a contract of significant length with a large bonus. If contract talks aren’t going well I wouldn’t expect the Texans to franchise him like many would want. If the team franchised him and he accepts he’d get a one-year deal worth $22.9 million which they can absolutely not afford.
It will be very interesting to see how this plays out. The team is saying all the right things but thanks to Peter King the seeds of doubt have now been placed.