If you take Peyton Manning out of the equation for a minute, the, pretty much, unanimous number one free agent on the market this offseason is Houston Texans' DE/OLB Mario Williams. The former first overall pick reportedly wants to stay in Houston, but unless he's willing to take a pretty steep hometown discount, they may not be able to afford him.
Per the excellent John McClain of the Houston Chronicle:
Ideally, they [the Texans] would re-sign him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on March 13, but there's only so much they can offer him. They're cap-strapped after spending so much last season on players such as cornerback Johnathan Joseph and free safety Danieal Manning.
Williams has told teammates and coaches he wants to stay with the Texans. If he really does, he should tell agent Ben Dogra to make it happen. General manager Rick Smith and vice president of football administration Chris Olsen will have to clear up enough cap space to make Williams a great offer - so great that he's willing to give them a hometown discount.
In his six seasons with the Texans, Williams has made $54 million, including $18 million last season. His franchise designation will be 120 percent of last year's salary, about $22.9 million. If the Texans were to franchise him, they'd be paralyzed with the remainder of their roster.
So - if Williams decides to hit the open market and see what teams would be wiling to pay him, the Seahawks could come into the picture. With a fair amount of cap space and a great need at the defensive end position and specifically a need for pass rush, Williams would be an absolute coup for John Schneider and Pete Carroll if they could convince him to come play in the Pacific Northwest.
ESPN's John Clayton joined the Kevin Calabro show on Tuesday and gave his thoughts on the situation.
I'm not sure what his mindset will be, but I'm sure he goes to the highest bidder. I mean, if this team wants to pay for a defensive end, you're talking about a guy that's young. Remember, the one thing that John Schneider and Pete Carroll have done is - you know, they like to go for the guys that are younger, and Mario Williams is a young defensive end, so I could see that being one move they could make.
It's going to be very competitive, because most 4-3 teams are going to want him, and you know, some 3-4 teams are going to want him. I think he's served better in a 4-3. That's his natural position, defensive end, not linebacker. His game is not dropping back in coverage, his game is putting his hand in the ground, rushing the quarterback, and getting sacks.
Clayton doesn't really tell us a lot we didn't already know, but his point about the Seahawks' penchant for going out and getting young, talented free agents is true. Last season, they made a pretty big splash by landing Sidney Rice and Zach Miller, and Carroll/Schneider have alluded to the idea of adding a few more free agents this offseason in interviews and press conferences lately. Consider Mario Williams my number one target.
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