Several people in the NFL Blogosphere have mentioned Mario Williams in connection to the Falcons as a possible free agent. Many of these rumors or thoughts are just that; nothing more than thoughts. However, with the Houston Texans choosing not to use their franchise tag, it gives Mario Williams the opportunity to hit the free-agent market. Williams will probably end up becoming the most highly paid defensive player in league history in 2012. Despite this, NFL.com polled its panel of experts on possible landing spots for Williams. Many of them felt that Atlanta would be an excellent fit for Williams.
Obviously every single team in the NFL would love to have Mario Williams on their team. Fewer can afford him, and even fewer still are willing to spend the money even if they can afford him. After the franchise tagging of Brent Grimes, and the re-signing of Thomas DeCoud, the Falcons have around $13 of their $30 million in cap space already wrapped up. I’ll present a scenario where Williams could become a Falcon.
Williams will probably cost what Julius Peppers was signed for a couple years ago, plus at least a million. So lets say that the cap hit of Williams in 2012 will be $17 million. You might say that the Falcons are out of luck and have all their money spent and can’t re-sign their other free-agents/sign free-agents at other positions. However, Brent Grimes has not signed his franchise tender yet, and the $10.6 million cap number could be decreased if a long term deal is reached. Suppose he signs a deal where he costs $7 million a year. That saves another $3 million that Atlanta could use to sign a FA left tackle (Demetrius Bell, Marcus McNeill, Levi Brown) and make this team monumentally better on both lines. Don’t forget that cutting Sam Baker would save another $3 million in cap space, money that could also be used to re-sign Curtis Lofton.
As you can see, Williams would be VERY expensive, but it is not completely outside the realm of possibilities that he could sign with Atlanta. There is no doubt the Falcons will be competing with other teams for Williams’ services, but since they have become a perennial playoff team with a lot of good young players at key positions (QB, WR, LB, DB) that could be enough to tip the advantage towards Atlanta. As one writer noted, the chaos that Williams would create for opposing quarterbacks Drew Brees, Josh Freeman, Cam Newton, might be just enough to “push the Falcons over the edge in the NFC South.”