There figures to be no shortage of suitors for defensive end Mario Williams, who was released by the Buffalo Bills in a salary cap move on Tuesday.
According to Josina Anderson of ESPN, the Bills have informed Williams of their decision to part ways—which ends a four-year run in Buffalo that included 43 sacks and only one missed game. The move saves Buffalo $12.9 million on the team’s 2016 cap.
A pass-rusher just one year removed from 15.0 sacks and All-Pro honors, Williams should have little trouble finding a new home in free agency. NFL teams are flush with cap space and starved for pass-rushing help.
Here are five potential landing spots for Williams:
The Falcons have roughly $30 million in cap space and a painfully obvious need for more pass-rushing talent. After a season in which Atlanta ranked last in the NFL in sacks (19), head coach Dan Quinn knows his team must get better up front, especially with Cam Newton in the division. Signing Williams, who has five seasons with 10 or more sacks, would instantly add a big piece of the puzzle.
Plugging in Williams to a defense already featuring All-Pro Khalil Mack would create a frightening duo of pass-rushers in Oakland. The Raiders also have a need at defensive end, with veteran Justin Tuck retiring and Mario Edwards’ future up in the air as he deals with a neck issue. Money will be no issue, as general manager Reggie McKenzie is blessed with the second-most cap room in the NFL. Luring Williams to Oakland would be a good way to spend a portion of the $75 million available to McKenzie this offseason.
New York Giants
The Giants may want to focus on their own in-house free agents at defensive end, namely Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers. But Pierre-Paul blew off a portion of his hand last summer and now wants to test the open market, and Ayers just produced his first season with more than six sacks at the age of 30. New York could quickly shift gears with Williams now on the market. He’s still capable of being a full-time, dominant player in the right system, which the Giants can provide. How does general manager Jerry Reese want to spend his money? New York is currently fourth in salary cap space, with almost $60 million available.
The Jaguars have plenty to offer Williams. With roughly $80 million in cap space, Jacksonville can pay any price. And head coach Gus Bradley could easily plug Williams in as his “LEO” end, a position similar to the one he played and thrived in during his first three years in Buffalo. The Jaguars certainly need the pass-rush after a year in which no player on the team produced more than 5.5. This is a strong fit for both team and player.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sensing a theme here? The Bucs have the need and cap space available to lure Williams to Tampa Bay. He’d slot in perfectly as the Buccaneers’ go-to edge rusher, especially for a defensive coordinator like Mike Smith—who once coaxed big seasons out of veteran John Abraham near the end of his career. Tampa Bay has almost $50 million in cap room. Why not spend a chunk of it on one of the team’s biggest needs?