Now that the 2016 NFL free agency signing period is only a few days away, rumors are starting to come out regarding the New York Giants and their potential free agent targets. As one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season, the Giants are looking to bring back a strong defensive culture that helped them win two Super Bowls in the past decade. While nothing can be officially announced until 4 p.m. on March 9, rumors are saying that former Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams could be signing with the Giants.
As first reported by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Williams will be visiting the Giants in the next few days.
Mario Williams is set to arrive in NJ tonight and visit the #Giants tonight and tomorrow, source said. They have a chance to keep him there— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 7, 2016
Mentioned Mario Williams is set to visit #Giants... It is expected to happen soon, but the day isn't firmed up yet. Some things to work out— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 7, 2016
While Rapoport backtracked on Williams being in New Jersey for the visit tonight, he will be meeting with the team in the next few days. At 31-years-old, Williams is getting up there in age, but many analysts and insiders around the league believe that he still has some great football left in him.
In 15 games last season, Williams had only five sacks and was really not the impact player that he once was. While Williams is partially responsible for the decline in his production, the Bills defense as a whole took a step backwards. As NFL Spin Zone notes, the Bills installed an entirely new defense last year.
“Williams was always a force to be reckoned with throughout his career. In 2012 for the Bills, he totaled 10.5 sacks, then 13.0 in 2013, 14.5 in 2014 and saw a steep decline last season at 5.0. Mind you, he played in 15 games but looked lost, confused and was completely ineffective under the new defense installed by first-year head coach Rex Ryan. Whether it’s the new system or the fact that perhaps Williams is on the decline after a decade in the NFL remains to be seen. Regardless, Williams had a salary cap hit this year of a whopping $19.9M which made it a no-brainer for the Bills to release him since he didn’t play well enough to earn such a hefty number.”
Since Williams had 14.5 sacks in 2014 and 13 sacks in 2013, the new system put into place by Rex Ryan may have been the main reason for the apparent decline in play. Regardless, Williams was set to make a lot of money this year, so it makes sense that the Bills would release an expensive player that does not fit their system.
While Williams is no longer a fit in Rex Ryan’s new defense on the Bills, he can still be a very effective player on a team that utilizes his strengths. Instead of forcing him into coverage, allowing Williams to focus on getting pressure on the quarterback could make him a very valuable asset for the New York Giants.
Giants hosting Mario Williams, could sign him before visit ends https://t.co/EWO4MH04Q2— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 7, 2016
As NFL.com notes, there is apparently a lot of interest in Williams’ services already. That is going to drive up the price tag and could make him a risky signing. While Williams has proven that he can be an elite pass rusher in this league, he did do the majority of his damage before his 30th birthday.
Even though many older pass rushers, such as Julius Peppers, have had success late in their careers after signing with new teams, the number of failed signings is much higher. Whether Williams is just looking for one last big payday or not remains to be seen, but he is too intriguing to pass up on for a team that desperately needs help generating pressure on the quarterback.
While the latest rumors say that Mario Williams could be signing with the New York Giants in the next few days, many things can change. Williams has already visited the Miami Dolphins and is also scheduled to meet with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Regardless, Rapoport and other NFL analysts believe that the Giants have the potential to get Williams to sign before he ever makes it to Jacksonville.
[Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images]