SAN JOSE, Calif. — Mario Williams appears to be good as gone as a Buffalo Bill. The team can save $12.9 million of sorely needed salary-cap space by releasing the disgruntled defensive end.
Those "Feel the Rush" promos will be replaced at some point this offseason.
Through a frustrating 2015 season in Rex Ryan's scheme, Williams mustered only 19 tackles and five sacks, while drawing harsh criticism from teammates. As one said, "It’s been clear to me that Mario doesn’t care about anybody but himself.”
Well, Williams does have one staunch supporter here at the Super Bowl: former Houston Texans teammate Antonio Smith. The 12-year vet, who spent three seasons with Williams, is still chasing a ring with the Denver Broncos. He considers Williams close as kin "on and off the field." And Smith didn't hold back when asked if Williams has much left to give.
"He definitely does!" Smith said. "That kid, every time he's had to evolve, he can. I don't care what scheme he gets put in. If he puts his mind to it, he can dominate."
The scheme, of course, was an issue for Williams last year. As early as a 34-21 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Oct. 18, he began voicing his displeasure with dropping into coverage. Under Jim Schwartz, cut loose, he had 14.5 sacks in 2014.
Said Smith, "When you're backpedaling, there's not many sacks you can get because you're in coverage. ...He's a man. It doesn't matter if he likes it or not, he's got to do the job he had to do."
Chances are, Williams will be a free agent soon and get his chance to prove he can still play at a high level somewhere else. Who's right? Who's wrong? Time will tell. Maybe Rex Ryan should've let Williams rush more, but the film also reveals a player struggling to beat blockers one on one. Elsewhere, Julius Peppers faced a lot of questions two years ago after a sluggish season with the Chicago Bears and then turned his career around in Green Bay. At age 34 and 35 he had seven and 10.5 sacks, in addition to several game-changing plays.
Can Williams rediscover his game in a new defense? He's about to find out.
Smith insists his pal still is a playmaker.
"Definitely. Definitely," Smith said. "You still have Julius Peppers having multiple sack years. You know? Those are two guys I put in the same category. I call them anomalies. Men like them two don't come around too often. Three-hundred-pound men who you can't even tell are 300 pounds — all muscle, speed and power."