I understand how important quality pass rushers are — I get it. The last four teams to appear in the Super Bowl averaged 46 regular-season sacks. The league average was 36.
It is hardly even a debate at this point that there isn’t a position on the defensive side of the field that carries more importance than pass rusher.
That said, I don’t think the Houston Texans should feel any pressure to re-sign impending unrestricted free agent Mario Williams.
It’s just not worth it.
This is a team that proved in 2011 that it can compete for a championship without Williams, so there’s no reason to risk your long-term financial health for a guy who hasn’t made it through a full season since 2009 and is coming back from a torn pectoral muscle.
First off, the franchise tag is out of the question. That would cost the Texans $22 million alone, making it almost impossible to give Arian Foster a new contract while probably costing them free-agent Pro Bowl center Chris Myers.
They have virtually no space under the cap right now, which means that they’d have to make some significant cuts in order to facilitate any sort of long-term deal for Williams. By all indications, the front office is working hard to create the necessary space, but that’ll only force them to sacrifice talent and depth elsewhere while queuing up a potential financial disaster several years down the road.
Serenity now, insanity later.
Williams has also said he hopes to return to the Texans, and a hometown discount isn’t out of the question. But based on the interest the 27-year-old super-athlete is guaranteed to receive on the open market, I can’t imagine he’ll be willing to cave as much as the team requires. PFT speculated earlier this month that Williams “could become the highest paid defensive player in league history” as a free agent.
Williams is incredibly talented, and he led the team in sacks before suffering that season-ending injury in Week 5. But the Houston pass rush didn’t miss a beat without him, so why break the bank? Why even hit the bank at all? This is a team that ranked sixth in football with 44 sacks (after recording only 30 with a healthy Williams in 2010) and already has a slew of capable young pass-rushing threats in the stable.
Quantity can often equal quality when it comes to pass rushers.
For starters, J.J. Watt looks as though he’ll be a star. The 22-year-old recorded seven sacks in the final nine games of the year and was the team’s most valuable player in their first-ever playoff victory when they pounded the Bengals despite not having their starting quarterback. Another rookie, Brooks Reed out of Arizona, also had 3.5 sacks in the playoffs and 9.5 in 13 regular-season and playoff starts in his first pro season. Third-year man Connor Barwin led the team with 11.5 sacks during the regular season, which means that their top three pass rushers are 25 or younger.
Would Williams help? Of course. Is he worth it? Not at all.