The Buffalo Bills announced yesterday that veteran defensive end Mario Williams has been released in a move seen as an effort to create some additional salary cap space.
At 31 years of age Williams is no spring chicken, but as proven by the Denver Broncos in their Superbowl 50 win against the Carolina Panthers last month; the ability to rush the passer and put pressure on the quarterback can be crucial to a team's success.
Whilst the North Carolina state graduate suffered a down year last season in Buffalo (one in which he publicly attacked head coach Rex Ryan's defence, and questioning his role), his production levels over the course of his career will ensure that there will be plenty of interest in his signature, with organisations likely to view last year's sub-standard performances as a "one-off". One of these teams should be the Oakland Raiders.
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A perfect fit for salary cap rich Raiders?
The salary cap for 2016 has risen by almost $12million to $155.27 million per team, and the Raiders will enter free agency with a reported $72+ million available in cap space entering the new season; which should see them be one of the more active teams in free agency.
Oakland clearly have a number of high priorities on the defensive side of the ball that they need to address, not least the secondary which was already lacking in quality options before Charles Woodson announced his retirement recently. But the possibility of adding a veteran presence across their defensive front should be an opportunity they should be actively pursuing.
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In Khalil Mack, the Raiders have one of the best young defensive players in the NFL, and the possibility of pairing him with Mario Williams on the defensive line is a devastating prospect for Oakland's opponents in 2016. Such a move could also be viewed comparably to when the Bronco's added veteran pass rush presence in DeMarcus Ware to play alongside Von Miller (and we all know how well that panned out.)
The potential addition of the 31-year-old free agent could create a pass rushing duo that could help negate some of the known weaknesses in the Raiders defensive back-end. The ability to both improve the team's pass rushing abilities and mask some deficiencies in the secondary in just one signing is a move the Raiders should be aggressively trying to pursue.
Ready to bounce back
It remains to be seen though whether Oakland has any genuine interest in signing Mario Williams, but the veteran presence and leadership he can bring to a team with a young core should not be understated. And if the Raiders or any other team have concerns about William's struggles last year, these do not appear to be worries that are shared by the defensive star.
In a recent interview with ESPN, on the prospect of being cut by the Bills he stated "At the end of the day, if I'm not there, I'll show you that I'm better than what I've been before. Like, that's just a chip on my shoulder regardless of whether I am there or not, because given the opportunity I'll get back to what I was."
Only time will tell where Williams will eventually land this off-season, but one thing is for sure; this is a move the Oakland Raiders should be looking to make as a real priority to turn around their defensive woes.
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