The free agent season will begin in earnest on March 13, but already there is no end to the rumors and speculation swirling around. One of the hottest commodities on the open market is sure to be Houston Texans linebacker Mario Williams.
Elliot Harrison of NFL.com took a look at six high-profile free agents on Wednesday, including Williams. Harrison speculates that the best fit for the top linebacker on the market might be the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Mario Williams to ... Jacksonville?
It ain't easy finding a player who has 53 sacks on his résumé, is 27 years old and can play in the 4-3 or 3-4 as an edge rusher. With so many potential suitors, where will Williams end up? The best fit would be a team that plays a four-man front, and has much in the way of cap room, unless Williams will be its only big acquisition.
While the former Texan learned the 3-4 last season under Wade Phillips, the bottom line is that he's only played five games in that scheme and is a bit oversized (if there is such a thing) to play weak-side linebacker. Thus, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers initially appear to be strong suitors as a franchise with a ton of cap space. Unfortunately, the Bucs also have problems inside, and with a new staff, it's hard to determine if they want to get into the Williams sweepstakes. The Buffalo Bills have cap space, and are switching back to a four-man front, so they, too, are a possibility. The Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons are others who could be in the mix.
But how about the Jacksonville Jaguars? They play a 4-3, and have not been able to get any pressure in the Gene Smith era. During Smith's three years as GM, Jacksonville has finished 32nd, 30th, and 25th in the league in sacks. Consider that they've faced Williams twice a year and know his game. Lastly, this organization has over $40 million in cap space. Rumor has it the Jags won't spend big money on free agents (plural). My sense is that's true ... but there's a difference between getting multiple starters in free agency and one big fish.
The thought of Williams wearing green and...whatever Jacksonville's other colors are...in the fall may not sit well with Texans fans, but we will have to see how this all shakes out.