For the time being, defensive end Mario Williams is unemployed.
But that’s likely to be a temporary situation. In fact, some NFL analysts believe the former No. 1 overall choice of the 2006 NFL draft could be headed toward Oakland.
The Raiders have huge flexibility under their salary cap and could afford to pay a big price for Williams, one of the league’s best pass-rushing defensive ends.
To pair Williams with Khalil Mack, on the other side of the defensive line would pose a major headache for Raiders opponents in 2016.
On Tuesday, the Buffalo Bills released Williams to save salary-cap space. The move comes after Williams’ least productive season since 2011 when he played just five games because of injury.
In 2015, Williams, now 31, played 15 games for the Bills but had just five sacks. In his previous three seasons with the Bills – with whom he signed in 2012 following six seasons in Houston – Williams had sack totals of 10½, 13 and 14½.
But there is reason to believe that Williams still has plenty of sacks still left in his tank, even after passing the 30-year barrier.
According to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, Williams had trouble making an impact under new head coach Rex Ryan’s defensive scheme. Rodak wrote that that scheme required Williams to sometimes drop into pass coverage or make last-second adjustments at the line of scrimmage, taking away his ability to do what he does best: rush the passer.
The Bills led the NFL in sacks in 2014 (54) but had just 21 in 2015, noted Rodak, and Williams recently voiced his frustrations with the scheme to Josina Anderson of ESPN.
“I’m not saying that scheme is wrong, I’m just saying that our strengths could be utilized better,” Williams told Anderson.
Now he’ll get a chance to play for a new team and a scheme more suited to his talents in 2016.
Zach Kruse of The Sports Daily included the Raiders in a list of five potential landing spots for Williams. Also on the list are the Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With the retirement of Justin Tuck, the uncertainty of the neck injury to Mario Edwards, plenty of money available and a defensive coordinator in Ken Norton Jr. who seems capable of mixing Williams into the lineup to get the most out of his pass-rush skills, the Raiders have a lot to offer.
Certainly, Williams has much to prove, too.
“If I’m not (in Buffalo), I’ll show you that I’m better than what I’ve been before,” Williams told Anderson. “Like, that’s just a chip on my shoulder regardless of whether I am there or not, because given the opportunity, I’ll get back to what I was.”