As far as I know, Mario Williams isn't available for trade. Since when has that stopped me from speculating?
In case you haven't paid attention to what has been going on in Houston, here is a quick rundown. Last year, their defense sucked. Texans poop-can Frank Bush and hire Wade Phillips. Phillips has usually run the 3-4 defense and will run that defense in Houston.
Phillips decided that Mario Williams, the 6'6 290lb defensive end, would be moved to OLB. It's not that he doesn't possess the tools to play that position, he just never has before. Switching from DE to OLB is never a sure thing. For every DeMarcus Ware, there is a pile of Vernon Gholston's. Some players take to the position quickly, some never do. It's a crapshoot.
Williams was one of the elite defensive ends while playing the 4-3. Even though he rarely ever had any help on the defensive line he racked up 48 sacks in five seasons.
So why would the Texans give him up?
Granted, it's not an easy sell, but hear me out.
I touched on the position switch, and so far the reviews have been uneven at best. Even though the Texans dominated the 49ers, Mario Williams registered nothing on the stat sheet. Not even an assisted tackle. I'm not basing his career projection on a preseason game, but all reports have Williams struggling to make the switch.
Now Head Coach Gary Kubiak stated that he had 5 pass pressures against San Fran, but most accounts don't have it nearly that high.
* Four opportunities to rush the passer as a weakside linebacker.
* Four running plays away from him.
* Five times the 49ers motioned him into a strong-side technique. In other words, they put a tight end on his side, making him have to bump the receiver at the line and potentially cover. A couple of times he tried to rush late after realizing the fullback or tight end wasn’t going to release, but to no avail.
* Five times he was a traditional 4-3 end; on third downs and in the final minute when 49ers were supposed to be in their one-minute offense.
I know, it's preseason. But it has been this way all preseason for Williams.
But you say "Bernie,
you sexy beast, what team, with serious playoff hopes, is going to trade a starter at this point in time?"
What if I told you that Mario Williams isn't one of the four best LB's on his team? All reports coming from Texanland is that Williams has been outplayed by Brooks Reed. Badly. Reed, the second round pick from Arizona has been a huge addition for the Texans. Head Coach Gary Kubiak had this to say about him:
"[Reed's] probably the one player right now showing the most vast improvement from day-to-day, practice-to-practice and game-to-game."
Oh, and Reed is learning the position for the first time, after being a defensive end in college, yet isn't struggling. In fact, he is making plays. Big ones. Some players take to the switch, some don't.
In the first preseason game, Brooks had a tackle for loss and a pass defended. Against the Saints he racked up two sacks and two forced fumbles, and notched another tackle for loss against San Fran. In those games, Williams has two tackles. Combined. He is a complete non-factor.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Texans are a better defense right now with Brooks Reed playing over Mario Williams. The Texans are cramming a square peg in a round hole.
It's not just me, Texans fans think that Reed should be playing over Williams as well (WARNING TITLES!)
Before you suggest that Williams just moves back to Defensive End, remember, the Texans already have two defensive ends. First round pick JJ Watt has played well, and Antonio Smith has been impressive and is also much much cheaper. Which brings me to my next point.
Mario Williams is in the final year of his contract. If the Texans think he is going to be cool with being paid as an OLB instead of a Defensive End, I suggest they ask Terrell Suggs about that. Not going to fly, nor should it.
Williams is going to ask for a Julius Peppers type contract, and by all rights he should get it.
Put yourselves in the shoes of the Texans GM, Rick Smith. Would you give a guy, who you may end up having to move to a 3-4 Defensive End, 6 years 92 million? That is a ton of money for a guy who will spend most of the time smashing his head against Guard-Tackle double teams. There is a reason teams don't like paying big money to 3-4 defensive ends, it's not smart.
Of course that is assuming that Williams even wants to play the DE in a 3-4. Williams and his agents aren't dumb. 3-4 DE's don't get paid in this league. Why stay in Houston and get 4.5 sacks a season occupying blockers for Reed and company instead of going to Atlanta/Indy/Seattle and getting 14.5 sacks a year while making tons of green? Simple answer, he won't and the Texans should know it.
Before you totally dismiss the contract issue, remember, this is a team that has paid Jonathan Joesph, Matt Schuab, Andre Johnson and DeMeco Ryans more than 40 million and Eric Winston got 30 million. Think Andre Johnson may want to redo his deal after Larry Fitz got $50 million dollars more? Nah, I'm sure he's cool with that. I haven't even mentioned Arian Foster, who will be a free agent after next season and should be in line for a payday.
Money is going to be an issue in Houston. Would you use 90 million on a position that could be filled by a mid-level guy?
The smartest move for the Texans is simple.
You trade Mario Williams.
Get something for him now. His stock is still sky high. He is a 26 year old pass rusher in a passing league.
Wouldn't the Texans be better off moving Williams and adding pieces, and freeing up TONS of money to use on other pieces of a team that is really starting to take shape?
This is why the Browns should be pro-active. If Williams hits the market, we would have to pay through the nose (read 100 million dollars minimum) to even get Mario to consider coming here.
But if we trade for him, we acquire the right to tag him. We work out a long-term deal, and go into the future with a defensive line including Williams, Jabaal Sheard, Phil Taylor, Tuba Rubin and soon-to-be-pro-bowler Jayme Mitchell. Not only is that a good defensive line, it is one of the best in the NFL.
So what would it cost? A starting point would be a first round pick. I'm guessing that the Texans would also want a player(s), so they could soften the blow of losing Williams.
Would you be opposed from offering the Texans a first round pick (Atlanta's) Marcus Benard and Sheldon Brown? Sure we would have a gaping hole at CB, but that is something we could fix later. Plus with that pass rush and Haden, good luck finding the soft spot in .8 seconds Flacco. Benard would be able to go back to being a stand-up OLB, and the first rounder would allow the Texans to use in any fashion they please.
It's a win-win. The Browns get a pass rusher for the next 8 seasons, and the Texans add a pieces to their secondary, linebacking core and acquire a pick for a guy that doesn't fit what they do anyways.
Maybe there was a reason Jabaal Sheard stopped wearing #90 last week? Do it Heckert. Now.
So sports fans, what do we think?