The Houston Texans have a big decision to make before the start of the 2012 off-season. The Texans' defense finished 2nd in the league this year playing without all pro defensive end/outside linebacker Mario Williams . Williams, the number one overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft, was having a career season in 2011 before tearing his pectoral mussel in a week 5 loss to the Oakland Raiders. For the next 11 games Houston proved they could not only survive without Williams, but dominate. Although, I expect Houston to do everything in their power to re-sign Williams to an extension, it would be interesting to see what would happen if he hit the open market. Here are two teams Mario Williams should be looking at not only for the big pay day he deserves, but for the prospects of a Super Bowl Championship.
1. San Francisco 49ers
Think about this: Ahmad Brooks will be a free agent in 2010. Was he a key part of San Francisco's 2011 success? Not as much as one would think. Brooks had a good year, 49 tackles and 7 sacks, and he will generate a lot of interest if he leaves San Francisco. If Brooks walks, Mario Williams should really consider signing on with the 49ers. Could you imagine a defense with that kind of talent? San Francisco already runs a 3-4 defense, which Williams is familiar with, so there wouldn't be any period of great adjustment for him. With Mario Williams and Aldon Smith on the outsides and Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis anchoring the middle San Francisco could have the most talented linebacker corps in NFL history. Williams should keep two things in mind about the San Francisco 49ers: 1 – they will be approximately $16 million under the salary cap at the beginning of the 2012 NFL off-season, so they will have plenty of room under the cap to make a couple of big name signings and 2 - San Francisco was in the NFC Championship game in 2011, and they are poised to make many more playoff appearances with Jim Harbaugh as their head coach.
2. New England Patriots
In 2011 the New England Patriots were on their way to a fourth Super Bowl title before they were derailed by the New York Giants, again. The Patriots glaring weakness was their lack of defense. The Pats finished the season 31st in yards given up, 15th in points allowed and 31st against the pass. The passing yards stats indicate two things: lack of competent defensive backs and lack of pressure on the quarterback. Before his injury in 2011 Williams had recorded 5 quarterback sacks in 4.5 games, and was on pace for 16 sacks on the season. Williams increased his 6 year sack total to 53. The Patriots haven't had a consistent pass rush since 2009, and Richard Seymour was with the team. Williams going to New England works for both sides. Signing Williams would bolster a New England defense that struggled to to keep teams off the field in 2011 and New England will be about $20 million under the cap, so they should have enough money to address all of their defensive needs. For Williams, he will get the payday he deserves, and he will be signing with a Super Bowl contender. New England still has a lot of gas in the tank to make a playoff run in 2012, and with 6 picks in the first 4 rounds of the 2012 draft, they seem poised to continue that trend for the next several years.
Mario Williams will have a big decision to make if the Texans release him in 2012. His top priority will be a big payday, but right up there with the money should be the fact that the team he signs with has the ability to make the playoffs on a consistent basis. Williams will be one of the most sought after free agents in 2012, and the San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots should be on the top of Williams' list.