The period for teams to apply franchise tags, be they exclusive or not, has passed, and linebacker Mario Williams is now set to hit the open market in what's likely to become a bidding war for the former No. 1 overall pick's services. Doing so would've likely sunk the remainder of Houston's offseason with a likely $20-22 million dollar hit on this season's salary cap.
And so, Williams is poised to become the biggest fish in a deep pond of free agents, and more than likely he'll be playing somewhere other than Houston. It's a somewhat odd ending to Williams' career with the Texans - he was converted to a linebacker in Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme to initial criticism, suffered some injuries and then became a productive force - but no stranger than his arrival. As CBS' Pete Prisco writes, the long, long evaluation of the 2006 NFL Draft proved the Texans and Williams winners after so much criticism from fans for not taking Reggie Bush or hometown hero Vince Young:
Nearly 50 months ago, the Houston Texans opted to pick defensive end Mario Williams over Heisman Trophy tailback Reggie Bush with the initial selection in the 2006 draft. And many pundits, including this one, chastised then-Texans general manager Charley Casserly for the choice.
Six years later, there's plenty of crow to go around.
As for his future, Prisco reports that Williams' preference is to work as a defensive end in the 4-3, rather than his new role as an OLB in the 3-4. Therefore it's likely that Williams will close the book on Houston by his own choice after years of being considered the wrong choice by fans.