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Mario Williams: Target Number One For Cleveland

Kerry Collins sucks. That is all. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
Kerry Collins sucks. That is all. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Jon is doing an awesome job of outlining free agents by position, and has been a fantastic addition to the team.

But I wanted to touch on a certain player before we reached his positional grouping: Mario Williams. Back in August, I wrote an article in which I believed the Browns should have made a push to try and trade for Mario Williams. I was more than willing to give away a first round pick, but luck seems to have broken Cleveland's way for once.

Here is a quick run-down on what will happen, and what the Browns need to do to reel in the biggest free agent acquisition in their history.

1. The new CBA has tied the hands of the Texans

Restricted free agents can no longer be slapped with the first and third round compensation price tag. The highest return a restricted free agent can now bring is a first rounder.

It may seem insignificant, but most teams now horde draft picks like fat chicks horde cake. That extra third rounder is a huge gain for certain franchises. It's a lot easier to swallow a contract and a first rounder for Mike Wallace than two picks and a huge contract. You only get 7 picks a year.

Back to the point. The Texans have a restricted free agent in Arian Foster. Why wouldn't Cincinnati complete a filthy offensive trio with AJ Green, Andy Dalton and Arian Foster? Isn't that worth a first round pick? I'm guessing Bengal fans think so.

So the Texans have a dilemma or tag Foster and make sure he stays. Tag Williams and make sure he stays. Which one? I'm guessing they are leaning towards Foster, even with Ben Tate playing well.

But for giggles, let's say they decide to tag Mario Williams.

2. Mario Williams franchise price tag: almost 23 Million dollars for one season

Read that again. 23 million buckaroos. 23 million smackers. 23 million (insert any old-person-word-for-money).

Have you taken a look at the Texans cap situation? They finished last season 1.08 million under the cap. Sure they can move some money around and create some room, but it's gonna be hard to create that much room.

Is it worth it to the Texans to cut money from other parts of their roster to squeeze in Mario Williams? Especially when you consider that Williams is playing out of position and wasn't missed last season?

3. Brooks Reed did just fine filling in for Williams

A lot of people weren't as sold as I was on Reed. Before he was injured, I pegged him as an impact defender, and a reason that the Texans could let Williams go.

After Williams went down, Reed stepped in and the Texans didn't miss a beat. Reed racked up 6 sacks in 10 starts and gave the Texans a nice rush on the other side of Conor Barwin (11.5 sacks). Doesn't it make more sense to let they younger (and cheaper) guys keep playing?

Conclusion: When you look at the situation, the Texans are going to let Mario Williams hit the market. I know John Clayton thinks differently, but he is a pony-tailed crypt keeper. The Texans need to add another WR and CB more than keep Mario Williams around blocking Brooks Reed.

What this means to Cleveland

A. Browns need another pass rusher.

Only injuries kept Jayme Mitchell from breaking the single-season sack record, but he still needs to be replaced. We have a gaping need at DE. Sure we could roll the dice on Coples or Ingram, but that would mean the Browns would have to give up the dream of RG3. We wouldn't want to do that now would we?

Adding Williams to the grouping of Rubin, Sheard and Taylor is enough to make a fat man swoon. The best part is that it would only cost money. Lerner has had no problem breaking open the wallet (SEE!? HE'S A GOOD OWNER!).

Anyone else love the idea of a RG3-Mario Williams off-season?

B. H&H have a history of focusing assets on defensive lineman.

Phil Taylor all the way back to Reggie White. These two gentlemen know that you win and lose games in the trenches. Sure we would much rather get these kind of guys through the draft, but this is a special situation.

The Browns have the money, the need and the leadership to make this deal happen.

C. Money ain't a thang

Excuse the Kriss-Kross rap lyric, but the Browns don't have cap issues. Going back to the Mangini years, this franchise has done a great job of cutting bad contracts, and locking up the good players we do have to nice contracts that aren't anchors (Cribbs' deal aside).

So, combining that with the rookie salary cap, the Browns have a ton of money to play with this off-season. Good thing because if we want to bring in Williams, were gonna have to spend it.

I fully expect Williams will be the highest paid defensive player of all time. Richard Seymour passed the Peppers deal with 15 million per season, but it was only two seasons long.

I think Williams will want, and get, in the neighborhood of 7 years, 105 million dollars, which would put him at 15 million dollars a year. I know that is a lot of money for a guy who has had double digit sacks only twice in his career, but I think his age, combined with his position, will bring that in.

Would the Browns be better off giving Cliff Avril 7 years 70 million? Possibly, I put it to you for discussion.

The other question is his injury history. He has missed a combined 14 games the past two seasons. Is it worth the risk?

I think the Browns are at an odd cross road here. On one hand, they could continue to build young, stick to the plan and build through the draft. Or they could make an exception. Acquire a younger guy (27) that can help speed up the process of getting back to the top of the AFC North.

Whether or not it is Mario or Avril, the Browns need to bring in someone through free agency to rush the passer.