Free agency can often become a quest to feel wanted, and to feel valuable. Players need to be swooned and sold on their status as the final link in a championship puzzle.
Often players also want to be put in a situation where they’re the primary option through which an offense or defense runs. Taking that mindset further, it’s one that can applied generally to all sports, with the NBA power forward coveting the chance to have plays directed his way every time down the court, and the young slugger chasing the chance to hit in the clean up spot for the first time in his career.
Defensive ends are the exception. Or at least they can be, and in a matter of hours we may see Mario Williams migrate north to the Windy City, with drool marking his path as he salivates over the opportunity to form a tandem with Julius Peppers.
The Bears are reportedly the front runners to land Williams, according to John Mullin of CSN Chicago, and they rarely whiff on a player they’ve targeted (see: Peppers, Julius).
Coach Lovie Smith was direct during the NFL Scouting Combine last month about the desire to improve the pass rush. Williams is the best of the edge-rusher class in 2012 just as Julius Peppers was in 2010 when the Bears, with Smith personally in the lead, landed Peppers with a decisive first strike at the outset of free agency.
Outside of Peppers and his 11 sacks, Chicago’s front four wasn’t overly threatening, with Israel Idonije, Henry Melton, and Matt Toeaina combining for 12 sacks. Williams had an injury-shortened season in 2011 and appeared in just five games, but he was still moving along at a sack-per-game pace, and he had 17.5 sacks over the previous two seasons. Overall Chicago ranked 19th with 33 sacks in 2011, and Idonije is also a free agent in a few hours.
He won’t be cheap, and given Williams’ age (27), the value of defensive ends on the open market, and the ability of elite ends to anchor a defense, his price will quickly escalate at 4:01 ET. He’ll likely use Peppers’ contract to set the market, and that’s a yearly cap hit of $14 million.
Williams could become the highest-paid defensive player in league history, but with their roughly $19 million in cap space, that’s a sum the Bears can afford. For many other teams, the desire to acquire Williams is certainly present, but the pocket space isn’t severely lacking.
And the rest…
- Six hours seems to be the standard Peyton Manning meeting time. That’s how long he met with the Broncos and Cardinals over the weekend, and he spent six hours with Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman yesterday. [Ben Volin]
- In what’s perhaps part of their pitch to Manning, the Titans will reportedly bring in All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson for a visit. [Music City Miracles]
- Adam Schefter also reports that Tennessee could be aggressive and compete with Chicago in their pursuit of Williams. [ESPN]
- After releasing Hutchinson over the weekend, the Vikings have room against the cap to be aggressive too, and possibly land a top-end receiver to help Christian Ponder’s development. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
- Randy Moss wants us to know that the media gave him a bad rep, and that he still loves the game and can play at a high level. That damn media shouldn’t have had the cameras rolling during his press conference rants in New England, and the media is also responsible for the horrible catering in Minnesota. [Matt Maiocco]
- The Dream Team won’t be nearly as dreamy in free agency this time around, with Philadelphia likely restricted to making minor depth moves. GM Howie Roseman will concentrate his energy on retaining his own free agents and working on new long-term deals for DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy. [Jeff McLane]
- On its own, the Texans cutting Eric Winston last night makes little sense. But no move is made in a vacuum, and Winston joined the growing wasteland of mid-March salary cap victims. [Battle Red Blog]
- Winston’s now former teammate Derrick Ward is well aware of the depressing reality of NFL life, and the end that awaits all but the very elite. [Derrick Ward on Twitter]
- Brian Billick spoke very bluntly, and very accurately on the future of Tim Tebow if the Broncos sign Peyton Manning, and Tebow is then placed on the trading block. [PFT]
- Santonio Holmes is still trying to rebuild his relationship with Mark Sanchez in 140 characters or less. [The Jets Blog]
- The statements from the Cowboys and Redskins regarding yesterday’s cap penalties were pretty much the bland, vague denials you expected. [Hogs Haven]
- The Steelers finalized a formality, offering Mike Wallace a high-level tender of $2.7 million for one year, a move which allows Pittsburgh to receive a first-round pick as compensation if Wallace is signed by another team. [Behind the Steel Curtain]