For all the talk about Mario Williams, two other players named “Williams” meant much more to the 2015 Buffalo Bills defense.
Safety Aaron Williams (neck) and defensive tackle Kyle Williams (knee) missed a combined 23 games this season and this unit felt the pain, falling from No. 4 in total defense to No. 19.
On Monday, General Manager Doug Whaley sounded hopeful both will be back.
While neither player spoke Monday, Kyle Williams reiterated to the GM he wants to keep playing and Whaley said that the neck injury to Aaron Williams is not career-threatening. So as Whaley says that reporters might as well take the first week of free agency off, he likely has these two players on the mind.
The 6-foot-1, 303-pound Kyle Williams made it clear a month ago he has no plans to retire.
“As long as the medical stuff checks out,” Whaley said. “We’re all waiting on that information. Mentally, when I saw him today, he’s ready to go. It was a frustrating season for him because he wasn’t out there and he’s a competitor.”
Asked if there’s doubt he might not be ready for the start of the 2016 season, the GM repeated they still need to meet with the medical staff.
Williams has been a rock up front the last 10 seasons and the team apparently believes he still has something to give.
Cornerback Leodis McKelvin made a point to bring up Kyle Williams when asked about Mario Williams last week. He believes the Bills’ defense took a major step backward – a bigger step than most probably realized – when a teammate rolled up on Kyle’s knee in a 34-21 loss to Cincinnati.
Said McKelvin, “When Kyle went down, everything changed … When Kyle went down, things had to change. Mario’s big enough, Mario’s fast enough to where he could do those other things.”
And on Monday, coach Rex Ryan hinted at what that change was. He said the Bills were set to have a “4-3 presence” with Kyle Williams before he suffered the injury.
Both sides may need to find a new salary cap number with Williams, who’ll be 33 years old, scheduled to make $7 million next season. The Bills’ defensive struggles through December probably give the player some leverage if the two sides need to iron out numbers.
The loss of Aaron Williams at safety proved to be a costly blow to the secondary.
While Bacarri Rambo had his moments and Corey Graham transitioned from corner to safety, the Bills still allowed 59 pass plays for 20-plus yards, the fourth-most in the NFL. Watching games from afar was visibly painful for Williams, who could only pound a table from a press box on the road.
Yet as scary as his neck injury was, his career apparently is not over. Said Whaley, “From what we’ve heard, no.”
“His has been a longer process and we’ve been getting periodic updates,” Whaley said. “And everything’s been positive. But again, we’ll get the final update when we meet with the medical staff.”
Also, the Bills had a familiar face stop by Monday. Wide receiver Percy Harvin, who was placed on injured reserve with knee/hip injuries Nov. 7, was in the building for his postseason physical.
The Bills didn’t exactly outstretch a warm, public hand to the receiver but they left the door open, too.
“We saw him today,” Whaley said. “He’s going through the medical procedures, the postseason physicals. So we’re going to wait to get all that information before we can go down that road and see where he is and where he can be with us.”
Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus apparently played through a broken foot during Sunday’s season finale against the New York Jets.
Dareus posted a photo to his verified Instagram account early Monday afternoon with the caption “Broke my foot in the 4 qtr, but I had to finish the game for my team. I love Buffalo #Family #BillsMafia.”
After sitting out the season opener due to a suspension, Dareus started the final 15 games of the 2015 season, finishing with 51 tackles and two sacks.
He did not speak to the media after Sunday’s 22-17 victory over the Jets, and he was not in the locker room Monday. Dareus signed a six-year contract extension worth potentially just over $96 million in September. Next season will be his first year of that deal.
Richie Incognito is due to become a free agent, but he would prefer to return to the only NFL team willing to take a chance on him after spending more than a season out of football after a 2013 bullying scandal.
“I don’t want to go anywhere,” the veteran guard said Monday. “I want to be here, definitely. I love the attitude of the city of Buffalo. I think I’m a Buffalo guy, I’m a hardworking guy. I come to work every day, I play a physical brand of football.
“I love it here. My teammates have been great, the organization’s been great. They’ve had my back the entire time, so my preference is to be here. But with that being said, obviously there’s a business side to things and we’ve got to work some things out.”
Incognito said there have been no negotiations yet between his agent, David Dunn, and the Bills.
“It’ll kind of take on a life of its own,” Incognito said. “The offseason has its own flow and (the Bills) will reach out to Dave and they’ll start talking. (Whether he is re-signed) is a decision I’ll leave up to the business people. When my agent says it’s right, it’s right. I play football, they handle business.”
The Bills inked cornerback Mario Butler, running back Mike Gillislee, wide receiver Greg Salas and punter Colton Schmidt to undisclosed contract extensions Monday, while also signing seven players to futures contracts.
All four re-signed showed the team enough to warrant a look into 2016, excelling through a rocky December.
The cornerback Butler had a game-saving pass break-up in Buffalo’s 22-17 win over the Jets, dinging wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins just enough to break up a potential 77-yard touchdown with 17 seconds left.
Gillislee, of course, was the December sensation with 267 yards on 47 carries (5.7 avg.) and three touchdowns.
Schmidt set a franchise record with a net average of 41.3 yards per punt.
Salas, signed on Dec. 22, was the team’s second-leading receiver on Sunday with three receptions for 41 yards.
Signing futures deals with the Bills were tight end Blake Annen, safety Jonathan Dowling, tight end Jacob Maxwell, center Ronald Patrick, defensive end Cedric Reed, guard Cyril Richardson and safety Philip Thomas.
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