As the Buffalo Bills' season limped deep into December, Mario Williams sat in his locker, ate a sandwich and insisted he still had a lot to give. Put in the right scheme, he believed he was still an elite pass rusher.
"This is the NFL," Williams said with one game to go. "A lot of things happen. It’s just a matter of people believing in you, certain situations and things like that.
“There’s nothing you can really do to change that.”
Williams now gets the chance to prove he's the same dangerous defensive end in the AFC East. The Miami Dolphins have signed Williams to a two-year, per multiple reports. NFL Network reports it's for $8 million per year.
By cutting Williams loose after four seasons, the Bills saved $12.9 million under the cap, money that then allowed them to place the franchise tag on Cordy Glenn ($13.7 million), tender three of their restricted free agents (defensive tackle Corbin Bryant, wide receiver Chris Hogan and tackle Jordan Mills) and re-sign guard Richie Incognito (three years, $15.75 million)
While Rex Ryan's defensive scheme did require Williams to drop into coverage and take on more double teams, veering Williams away from his comfort zone, he still did little with his one-on-one opportunities.
A player who racked up 126 tackles, 38 sacks and five forced fumbles his first three seasons with the Bills was often invisible as the Bills finished with their fewest number of sacks ever in a 16-game season. The outspoken Williams called Rex Ryan's scheme in question multiple times publicly. The lowest low for Williams probably came in the 16-6 win over the Dallas Cowboys when he seemed to check out in recording zero tackles, zero hits, zero anything through 54 snaps.
Quite possibly, Williams will be be rejuvenated in Miami. Defensive Ndamukong Suh will draw plenty of attention inside and Williams will get to rush off the edge in a traditional 4-3 scheme.
Change helped a similar physical freak in Julius Peppers who was ineffective his final season with the Chicago Bears, signed with the Green Bay Packers and had 81 tackles, 17.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, 11 pass break-ups and two touchdowns in two seasons under Dom Capers' 3-4.
Miami should be skeptical, though. Williams had 19 tackles and five sacks in 2015 as some in his own locker room questioned his effort.
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.”
Scathing takes, indeed. And a far cry from the joyous day at One Bills Drive in 2012 when Buffalo made Williams the richest defensive player in NFL history at six years, $100 million.
Is he finished? We'll see.
The 31-year-old will now try to get some revenge on Buffalo twice next season.