The Buffalo Bills' long-anticipated release of veteran defensive end Mario Williams finally happened Tuesday, triggering the usual flood of questions from fans of other teams about whether their team will or should sign him.
In answer to the New York Giants fans asking this, I will say that I think the Giants should try to sign Williams, but that I wonder whether they can.
First part first: Yes, the Giants tend to look for younger free agents. Williams is 31 and closer to the end of his career than he is to the beginning, and thus not an ideal solution to the team's long-term pass-rush problems. But there is no ideal solution and Williams offers something the other solutions don't -- namely a track record of exceedingly high-end production.
Williams' 10-year NFL career includes five seasons with more than 10 sacks. Yes, he struggled in 2015, as did Buffalo's entire defense in Rex Ryan's first year. But he had 14.5 sacks in 2014, 13 the year before that and 10.5 the year before that. It's a lot easier to see Williams' five-sack 2015 season as a circumstance-based blip on the radar than as an alarm bell signaling the end of his days as a productive pass-rusher. I think he will bounce back and play great again for whoever signs him.
Now, can the Giants be that team? He'd be a great fit in their 4-3 defensive front. They're trying to bring back Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers, but they aren't likely to re-sign both and could end up with neither. Regardless of what happens with those guys, the Giants need to look at younger options for the future. But assuming they lose one or both of their own 2015 starters, Williams plugs in as an instant starter and helps give their younger pass-rushers (whoever those turn out to be) a little more time to develop.
My question is whether, if the Giants have interest in Williams, he will reciprocate that interest. The Giants have had three straight losing seasons and missed the playoffs in six of the last seven. History and mythology aside, the Giants in 2016 don't scream "CONTENDER" at potential free agents. Teams such as the Cowboys, Panthers and other 4-3 teams who are perceived as closer to contention than the Giants are at this point are likely to be more appealing.
It's possible Williams will go where the most money is, but (a) there's no guarantee the Giants will offer that; and (b) he did that the last time and cashed in big as a free agent in Buffalo. He's at the point in his career when trying to win a title is likely a higher priority than other things are. At this point, with a brand-new coach and all the work they need to do on defense, the Giants would have a hard time convincingly offering a chance to do that anytime soon.