The good people at Football Outsiders recently wrote a piece for ESPN In$ider that involves suggesting one bold move for every NFL team. You can read the NFC version here and the AFC version here. The move suggested for the Philadelphia Eagles is signing Mario Williams. The explanation:
"Even if the Eagles focus on in-house retention, though, there is at least one buy-low free agent who could deliver them a premium return. Williams' production and lackluster effort in 2015 was shameful at times, and he ultimately ended the season with his lowest sack total since his rookie year. The Eagles might understandably balk at Williams for publicly hanging Rex Ryan out to dry, given their issues with player-coach relations during Chip Kelly's regime. But playing under Jim Schwartz, Philly's new defensive coordinator, Williams posted a career-high 14.5 sacks in 2014. Schwartz's aggressive one-gapping scheme formed a nice marriage with Williams' skill set then, and there is little reason to believe it would not rejuvenate the 31-year-old after a down season. The Eagles have a nice pass-rushing trio with Cox, Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry, but adding Williams would give Philadelphia's defense a drool-worthy ceiling."
Before we get started, it's worth noting Williams is not officially a free agent yet. He's still under contract with the Bills. That might change, however, due to the issues Williams had in Buffalo last season. Not only was he not productive but he seemed to clash with the new coaching staff. Williams has a $19.9 million cap figure in 2016 and the Bills can release him to save nearly $13 million in cap space.
If/when Williams does hit the market, the Eagles will have a chance to sign him. But should they? Here's why the move does and doesn't make sense.
Why this makes sense
As ESPN already mentioned, Williams had one of his most productive seasons under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz in 2014. He finished the season with the seventh best Pass Rush Productivity (PFF stat) of any 4-3 defensive end. Williams' decline in 2015 seems less related to age than it does scheme. He just wasn't a good fit in Rex Ryan's 3-4 defense.
A potential problem with signing Williams is that the Eagles are already paying three players starting defensive end money: Brandon Graham, Connor Barwin, and the recently re-signed Vinny Curry. On the other hand, it's really hard to have too many good pass rushers. They can always be rotated in and out. It's worth noting the Eagles could trade Barwin to team that runs a 3-4 defense. He has value and the move would save the Birds over $6 million in cap space. From there the Eagles would split playing time among Graham, Curry, and Williams. That's a very strong group of pass rushers.
Why this doesn't make sense
As I already mentioned, the Eagles are paying three players starting defensive end money. Curry and Graham aren't going anywhere. Trading Barwin isn't impossible but it doesn't seem likely considering how he's such a well-respected leader on the team. He also has experience playing in the 4-3. It's possible the Birds could use him at SAM linebacker but it's been suggested he's more likely to be a defensive end. It's hard, then, to see where Williams would fit in. There might not be enough playing time to justify the salary he's going to warrant. The fact that Williams was something of a malcontent and his effort was questioned last season is also a bit of concern.
Chances of it happening: 3/10
I wouldn't be surprised to see the Eagles show some interest in Williams due to the Schwartz factor. But the former No. 1 overall pick might find a situation for himself where he doesn't have to share playing time in a heavy rotation. Teams might be willing to pay him more money than the Eagles will offer.
At the least, it's fun to think about. Do you think the Eagles should sign Williams?