INDIANAPOLIS --- Mario Williams' tune is changing a bit. In an interview with ESPN, the Buffalo Bills defensive end said he is willing to take a pay cut to stay with the team.
But, again, he expressed concerns over Rex Ryan's defense and said he'd want to "meet halfway" with the scheme.
“Yes, most definitely," said Williams, on if there's a way to make it work in Buffalo. "I love my team. I love my teammates. Everything has been fine. It’s just a matter of if there can be a better understanding of being able to do what we do... at least meet half way. That’s all, meet half way."
For Williams to have any shot at returning, he'd need to take a massive pay cut. He has a $19.9 million cap number in 2016 and this team is hurting for money. By releasing Williams, they'd save $12.9 million, money needed to potentially re-sign tackle Cordy Glenn, guard Richie Incognito and/or linebacker Nigel Bradham.
Several times last season, Williams made it clear he was unhappy with his role in Ryan's defense. As early as October, he said he never dropped into coverage this much.
“Yea, I mean, it all depends on what it is happening,” Williams said. "My thing is this... obviously I've had big contracts, but once you get on a team and you get around the guys, it becomes family. The guys on defense, we laugh and talk about anything. We do a bunch of stuff together on and off the field, obviously. It’s bigger than just numbers. But at the same time, as far what you said about it being feasible, a (cap) crunch is a crunch. Obviously there’s two great players on the other side of the ball that need to be back (UFA’s LT Cordy Glenn, LG Richie Incognito). Like you said, I’m not an accountant either. I don’t even know how you can go about making it where it makes at least some type of sense. That’s not what I do, so that’s why I don’t even worry about it.”
And common ground on defense was never met.
As players have said, the coaches did not reach a compromise scheme-wise with the coaching staff until it was too late. Inside linebacker Preston Brown explained this at length after the season, and then defensive tackle Corbin Bryant last week.
Williams was the most vocal during the season.
While he does have allies on the team who agree with everything he said about the defense, Williams also angered some in the locker room who questioned his work ethic and commitment.
As one anonymous teammate told The News, “It’s been clear to me that Mario doesn’t care about anybody but himself." One player also later texted, “He’s more concerned about his RC cars and farm equipment than playing football for the Bills.”
At least in his latest interview, Williams sounds more open to staying in Buffalo, even at a reduced rate, if more of a compromise is made. After recording 42 tackles and 14.5 sacks in Jim Schwartz's defense, he had 19 tackles and five sacks with Ryan.
"My biggest thing since the last time we talked was... we didn’t have, at least I feel like for myself, we didn’t have common ground as far as give-and-take on the scheme," Williams told ESPN. "I have no problem listening, but like I said, at least have us doing half of the snaps of what we do best, and that’s us going (on attack) and the guys in the back can cover.
"Last year I feel like we were way more blitz-happy than anything. I’m just saying can we meet half way, so the guys who get after the quarterback can get more opportunities to do that; and set up your fill with the players inside you and make it happen like that. That’s all I ask. I’m not saying throw the scheme out. That’s what I was saying before. I never said anything was wrong with the scheme... We have guys who can rush up front and guys who can cover, so let us do our thing, at least half the time.”