Bills Owner Ralph Wilson was "as ecstatic as any of his team's fans over the signing" of DE Mario Williams to a six-year deal worth as much as $100M, according to Mark Gaughan of the BUFFALO NEWS. Wilson said, "It was a big win today, a big win for everybody; the fans, the people who work for us, everyone." The contract includes $50M guaranteed and "is the biggest for a defensive player in NFL history." It also is the "first huge-money deal the team has handed out in free agency" since '07, when it signed G Derrick Dockery for $49M. The 93-year-old Wilson said, "I'd like to see us make the playoffs and possibly the Super Bowl while I'm around. I don't expect to be around that many years." Wilson said that he "did not consider the signing any change in philosophy for him." He added, "I feel like we're not that far away." He also said that he "had no hesitation in going after Williams, despite the big cost," when GM Buddy Nix pitched the idea. Wilson: "The money had nothing to do with it. Buddy figured out how much it would take to get him. He put the price on, and we went from there" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/16). ESPN.com's Andrew Brandt noted competitive balance and "parity, fueled by a cap and equally shared billions of television revenue," allowed for the small-market Bills to land Williams. Brandt wrote, "Pay close attention to the reported $50 million guarantee. That is the 'real money' of this contract, and it is eye-popping." An NFL source said that half of the $50M "is fully guaranteed for skill and injury while the other $25 million is only guaranteed for injury initially, converting to full skill guarantees later in the contract" (ESPN.com, 3/15).
IMPACT PLAYER: In Buffalo, Bucky Gleason notes not since the '86 deal for QB Jim Kelly has a player "signing a contract with the Bills made such an impact," and it is a sign the Bills "are relevant again." Williams "chose to come here, a fact that will take him a long, long way in this town." Williams said Thursday at the press conference, "You hear so much about, 'Oh, it's cold.' It's cold in a lot of places. You hear so much about, 'There's really nothing to do.' Well, it's a family atmosphere here, but everything is within reach if you want to go to Toronto or fly to New York or Boston" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/16). In Rochester, Bob Matthews writes the arrival of Williams "could mean more to the Bills off the field than on the field in terms of credibility and relevancy in this region and throughout the NFL nation, proving that owner Ralph Wilson still is serious about providing a competitive product, encouraging fans to buy season tickets, and suggesting that ... Buffalo is not necessarily the Siberia of the NFL" (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 3/16). The BUFFALO NEWS' Gaughan writes the deal "is a milestone in the 52-year history of the Bills" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/16).
Williams had been with the Texans since being selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the '06 NFL Draft. Texans Owner Bob McNair said of losing Williams to the Bills, “What you’re seeing happen is there are a few stars around the league that are going to get a lot of money, and with the salary cap, that just means that there’s less money to go around for the rest of the other players. I think what this will do ultimately with the new CBA ... is going to allow the teams in the lower quartile an opportunity to move up faster because with the new rookie salary pool less money is going to go to the rookies.” Patriots Owner Robert Kraft said of big free-agent contracts, “Commissioner Goodell has done a great job helping to get us this 10-year labor agreement. We have TV agreements that guarantee our revenue streams over the next decade so teams know what they have to spend and the health of the league is very strong” ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 3/16).
NOW OR LATER? Williams is arguably the highest-profile free agent to sign a deal this offseason, and Comcast SportsNet New England’s Tom Curran noted there are a "lot of teams that are rolling their eyes and saying, ‘My god, why is everybody spending so much money? We don’t have a salary cap that went up, it’s gone down!’" Curran: "The fact is you can either pay now like some teams are doing, or pay later like teams like the Patriots probably intend to do when that 2014 money comes in. I'd be a pay later guy myself. Wait till the money is there.” NBC Sports Network’s Pete Najarian: “The teams that are paying now, have to pay now. They got to fill those stadiums. I’m talking about Buffalo and I’m talking about Tampa Bay. They’re the ones paying, they got to pay now.” NBC Sports Network’s Russ Thaler: “That's right. If you don't pay now you might not have the money to spend” ("NBC Sports Talk," NBC Sports Network, 3/15).