As the Denver Broncos proved this season, disrupting the quarterback is paramount to success, especially in January. Even as a 31-year-old veteran, Williams should field plenty of offers for his services in a league always desperate for pass rushers.
Williams is best served as a defensive end in a 4-3, when getting after the quarterback is his main priority. However, he also owns the ability to play linebacker in a 3-4 -- compiling 13 sacks in Mike Pettine's scheme in 2013.
The biggest question teams will have about Williams is the bevy of plays he took off last season under Rex Ryan and the consistent blasting of his coach to the media. If a team is satisfied that it was a blip on the radar, Williams is a veteran many teams could and should look to add.
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On NFL Network's NFL HQ, Charley Casserly, the former general manager who selected Williams No. 1 overall in 2006, noted several teams on which he believes the pass rusher would fit -- including the Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens. On Saturday, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport addded Williams will visit with the Miami Dolphins.
We decided to offer some of our own potential landing spots:
The offseason focus might be on the quarterback and running back positions, but adding a pass rusher is vital for Jerry Jones. Greg Hardy is gone. Randy Gregory is suspended for four games. Dallas sacked the quarterback just 31 times in 2015, ranking 25th in the NFL. The Cowboys' back end is solid with the emergence of Byron Jones, but they need to put pressure on the quarterback in 2016. Pairing Williams with Demarcus Lawrence would give the Cowboys two rushers who can win off the edge. Also, signing an aging former star with some character questions to a big contract just feels like a Jones move.
General manager Steve Keim promised to upgrade the pass rush this offseason. Williams could step in and provide an instant upgrade while the Cards bring along younger pieces. Bruce Arians loves veteran players and would nip in the bud any of the effort issues with Williams. The Cardinals put their players in the best position to make plays, so we wouldn't worry about Williams dropping into coverage much under defensive coordinator James Bettcher. For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, adding pass rushers is the priority, and Williams would fit the bill.
This is my favorite option. Khalil Mack needs a rush mate in the worst way. Adding Williams could be akin to when the Denver Broncos paired DeMarcus Ware with Von Miller. A tandem of Mack and Williams would be devastating. Williams would regularly get one-on-one matchups to exploit. The pass-rushing duo would also help protect the defense's weak back end. The Raiders have boatloads of salary-cap space to throw money at Williams. The biggest question for Reggie McKenzie might be whether Williams would disrupt the growing leadership. With Justin Tuck and Charles Woodson retiring, the locker room is void of veteran leaders. Last season, Williams didn't portray much leadership. Could he corrupt a young core? That question should not cause the Raiders to waver on adding a pass rusher who could make the Oakland defensive line one of the best in the NFL.
New York Giants
General manager Jerry Reese is in a strange position this offseason. He has money to spend, but a lot of holes to fix and not a lot of time to do it. Reese already tried the massive spending spree avenue back in 2014, and it actually yielded some great finds like pass rusher Robert Ayers and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. It did not yield many wins, however. He doesn't seem to have much of a choice this year, especially with no great players to extend, and a massive question mark surrounding Jason Pierre-Paul. Signing Mario Williams could be a Band-Aid for Reese and the Giants, and they could afford to overpay. It would return Williams to the comfort of a 4-3 system and, should the Giants work out a short-term deal to keep Pierre-Paul and Ayers, give them the best pass-rushing tandem they've had since 2012. This might be a pipe dream seeing as it's not a typical Giants move. Williams will likely eye contenders first, but the scheme fit will be a close second.
Familiarity is another popular motivator for all-of-a-sudden free agents, and Mario Williams might jump at the chance to play for former defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Williams had a career-best 14.5 sacks under Schwartz during an All-Pro campaign in 2014. Their connection seemed to be one of the best Williams has had over a career underscored by constant change at head coach and defensive coordinator. Williams had a lot to say about Rex Ryan's defense in Buffalo, but he also had his perfect defense to compare it to.
Jacksonville is more of an attacking 4-3, but Gus Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell have a ton of money to throw at the defense this year -- so why not do it? We've seen high-priced free agents start migrating back down to Jacksonville over the past two years, and if the team can build the defense, it might be thought of as a legitimate playoff contender. Bruce Irvin might be priority No. 1 for Caldwell and Bradley, but adding an experienced power rusher on the other side, one that can oversee the development of Dante Fowler, won't hurt either.