The Dallas Cowboys are rumored to be looking into one of the top free agents, with former Buffalo Bills pass rusher Mario Williams reportedly an intriguing prospect for a team looking to leap back into Super Bowl contention.
Williams was cut this week by the Bills, ending a four-year tenure that included some of the league’s top play for pass rushers and one very disappointing season at the conclusion. Williams was vocal about his unhappiness in coach Rex Ryan’s system, which occasionally called for him to drop back into pass coverage, and critics accused him of mailing in a subpar performance.
Even though Mario Williams is 31, the age when many pass rushers are in a decline, his skills are still sharp, and he is viewed as one of the most coveted free agents when the market opens later this month. He has shown an ability to succeed in either a 4-3 or a 3-4, which former Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine employed in 2013, with Williams picking up 13 sacks that year.
There are reportedly a number of teams interested in looking at Mario Williams, and the Dallas Cowboys are rumored to be among the front-runners.
As NFL.com noted, the Cowboys have holes to fill with the departure of Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory’s suspension and have a real need for a quarterback-hunting pass rusher.
“Dallas sacked the quarterback just 31 times in 2015, ranking 25th in the NFL. The Cowboys‘ back end is solid with the emergence of Byron Jones, but they need to put pressure on the quarterback in 2016. Pairing Williams with Demarcus Lawrence would give the Cowboys two rushers who can win off the edge. Also, signing an aging former star with some character questions to a big contract just feels like a Jones move.”
The rumors connecting the Dallas Cowboys to Mario Williams intensified this week when another potential pass rusher was swept off the market. Miami’s Olivier Vernon appeared headed for free agency until the Dolphins decided to slap the $12.734 million franchise tag on him. Other teams can still match it, but it seems more than likely that he’ll stick with Miami.
As the Dallas News reported, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones isn’t looking to break the bank in free agency, but that wouldn’t preclude Williams if the price is right.
“Another name free agent was dropped onto the market Tuesday when Buffalo released Mario Williams. The veteran defensive end had only five sacks last season _ the second lowest total since he entered the NFL with Houston in 2006 _ but does have 96 sacks for his career. Williams won’t command the dollars Vernon will get because of his age (31) but he will attract interest.
“He’s a player the Cowboys will discuss.
But even as the rumors connecting Mario Williams to the Cowboys continue to swirl, there are warnings across the league that he may not be worth the price and not worth the trouble. There were reports from Buffalo this season that Williams was a dour locker room presence, essentially giving up on the team after feeling like a poor fit in Rex Ryan’s system.
NFL.com writer Adam Schein also said that Williams may still command more money than he’s worth.
“I’m still a Williams believer, just as a pure football player. It’s the potential price tag that turns me off on the 31-year-old,” he wrote, adding, “Teams like the Cowboys, Giants, Cardinals and Bucs make sense as potential landing spots. But if Williams commands top dollar, I’d pause. I want to see the numbers on his next deal.”
The price may already be too high, anyway. There are rumors that the Dallas Cowboys are looking into other free agents beyond Mario Williams and may also have designs to trade for discontent Eagles running back DeMarco Murray, bringing him back after a one-year hiatus.
[Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images]