Bills Team Report Sports Xchange Last week after the Bills shocked the NFL by landing free-agent defensive end Mario Williams, ESPN analyst Bill Polian surmised that it could pave the way for other free agents to take Buffalo more seriously when their phones ring.
"There'll be other people
interested in playing with Mario," said Polian, the former Buffalo and
Indianapolis personnel king.
He was right.
On the heels of Williams' signing, Buffalo added a bookend for their
now very formidable defensive front with the addition March 21 of
fellow five-year veteran Mark Anderson.
addition of Anderson was significant for the Bills because it not only
gives them a proven commodity opposite Williams, it kept him away from
AFC rivals New England, Miami and Baltimore which also coveted
Anderson recorded 10 sacks for
the Patriots last year and the Patriots desired him back, but not for
an overly rich deal for what to them was not an every-down player.
Buffalo's deal: four years, $27.5 million with $8 million in guarantees.
It was another coup for general manager Buddy Nix, who had the luxury
of nearly $38 million in cap cash space to play with when free agency
started on March 13 and he has used it wisely.
Improving the pass rush was the No. 1 offseason
priority for Buffalo, which last season recorded a measly 29 sacks.
"It really is a big deal for us and an exciting time," Nix said. "We
think this (Anderson's signing) made us a lot better. This guy's about
as productive as anybody around for the number of snaps he played. He's
been in rotation some but he's a pass rusher. He's had a lot of visits
and a lot of offers and I think he made his choice because he wants to
put his hand on the ground and rush the passer and that's what we're
Indeed, the lure of playing in Dave
Wannstedt's defensive-end friendly 4-3 scheme and the chance to play
with Williams were two big factors in Anderson's decision.
"He played a big part but I knew Mario in Houston. I knew the type of
guy he was. He played a big part," said Anderson, who played part of
the 2010 NFL season with the Texans. "The whole defensive line played a
big part, the coaching staff and the team. I've seen how hard the team
worked last year. They were close. They had a few injuries along the
way. Everyone seems like they're back and ready to go. I'm just happy
to be part of this organization."
In Williams and
Anderson, the Bills have their best bookend defensive ends since Bruce Smith and Phil Hansen on paper.
A fifth-round pick
of Chicago's in 2006 out of Alabama, Anderson had a stellar rookie
campaign with 12 sacks but managed just 9.5 over the next three seasons
for the Bears. He finished the 2010 season with Houston as a teammate
He resurrected his career with Bill
Belichick and the Patriots last season, recording 10.0 sacks and 28
tackles as a passing down specialist. He added 2.5 sacks in the
playoffs. The Bills think Anderson can be an every-down player. His
signing puts into question the future roles of Chris Kelsay and Shawne Merriman.
"I was given the opportunity to take on
that starting role and to get more reps, and to be more productive on
the field," Anderson said of parlaying last season's Super Bowl run
with the Patriots into a big contract. "I was just blessed that I was
put in a great situation. I made sure that when I stepped on the field
that I made the most of every opportunity. That's what I'm planning to
do coming to Buffalo."
Like Williams, Anderson was attracted by Buffalo's
"When you think of Buffalo you think of a nice, small blue-collar
town," he said. "The fans are great. When I was waiting at the airport
I had fans coming up to me, a lot of fans with Buffalo Bills hats. A
lot of them came up to me and asked about my free-agent visit. I
thought that was amazing that they keep up with everything that goes on
around the league with this organization. I just love the whole college
atmosphere and I feel that it's what you need. You need that type of
support in order to be successful in this league."
Well, it can't hurt but it also hasn't seemed to
The Bills have missed the playoffs 12 consecutive seasons, the past two
under Nix and coach Chan Gailey. But landing Williams and Anderson has
erased the team's image as a football wasteland.
His first two years on the job Nix was quiet in free agency. But he
said that was mostly because he wasn't thrilled of who was available
"I'll say this to you: the reason we're doing
more now is the guys that we like that are out there," he said.
"There's been some guys that just didn't fit in free agency (in the
past), some older guys whose careers were on the decline and that's not
the market we're in. We're in (for) these young guys that are on the
rise. And I think that's part of the reason for this year being like it
Bills already reaping benefits of Williams signing
--Giving free-agent defensive end Mario Williams a six-year, $96
million contract, richest for a defender in NFL history, was
jaw-dropping on the surface. But the Bills are already reaping the
benefits, some that a price can't be affixed to. According to chief
executive officer Russ Brandon, the team sold 1,400 new season tickets
and renewed 4,000 season tickets in the days following Williams'
signing. Meanwhile, nearly three million page views were registered on
the team's website (buffalobills.com), more than 3,700 fans on Facebook
signed up to win a Williams autographed football and 6,000 signed up to
purchase for a Mario No. 90 jersey.
"It's been an
exciting week for our organization and Bills fans everywhere," Brandon
said. "The recent increase in new season ticket sales and ticket
renewals along with the traffic numbers on our social media platforms
continues to highlight the passion of our fan base."
--Williams will earn $24.9 million in actual cash payouts from the
Bills in 2012, the Buffalo News reported. That's $5.9 million in base
salary and $19 million in a signing bonus, part of a total six-year,
$100 million package. Owner Ralph Wilson, 93, told the paper the time
was right again to do whatever it takes to win.
like to see us make the playoffs and possibly the Super Bowl while I'm
around," Wilson said. "I don't expect to be around that many years. ...
We owe it to Buffalo, the fans in western New York and everybody to
make the move. And let's get going."
What about giving
general manager Buddy Nix a green light to spend? The team has been
very active in free agency and in signing their own free agents this
offseason. "I didn't give a darn about the money," Wilson said. "I
can't take the money with me."
--Wide receiver Derek Hagan, one of the team's remaining unrestricted free agents, was
re-signed to a one-year, $765,000 deal. Hagan began last season with
Oakland and joined the Bills in late November as an emergency
replacement when injuries hit the receiving position hard. In the
season-finale against New England, Hagan caught seven passes for 89
yards. Hagan brings good size (6-2, 215) to the position and will
compete for a backup spot.
--Former Bills defensive end
Aaron Schobel is rumored to be mulling a comeback. Would it be with the
Bills? No, said Nix.
"Absolutely not, no. Playing with
us? No," said Nix who tried unsuccessfully to keep Schobel from
retiring after he became general manager in 2010. "He's retired I know.
Where is this coming from?" Schobel, the Bills No. 2 career sack
leader, is 34. One obvious suitor could be Jacksonville, now coached by
ex-Bills head coach Mike Mularkey whom Schobel played for.
--News that the Denver Broncos were going to deal quarterback Tim Tebow
after acquiring future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning caused a stir in
Buffalo, where not everyone is sold on Ryan Fitzpatrick. But using one
poll as a gauge, fans are happy the Bills weren't in the running. The
fan website www.buffalorumblings.com posed the question: "Should the
Bills trade for Tim Tebow?" Of 5,791 responses, 63 percent (3,685) said
no, 30 percent (1,793) said yes and 5 percent (313) was undecided.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I was pretty much told, which it is what it is,
there's 11 guys on the football field and regardless of who you are,
regardless of what you've done, you're not going to do it alone. I'm
sure we're obviously going to add more pieces to this puzzle and I was
just reassured no matter what happens don't think that you have to do
all this. I can't throw and catch the football at the same time, I
can't sack the quarterback and catch an interception at the same time.
The biggest thing is we as a TEAM, as brothers, we have to be all on
one accord and we have to all have the same mentality, the same desire.
So, I think the biggest thing with me coming here, you know I'm not a
vocal guy, I go out there and I play and my biggest thing is to have
everybody put everybody else on the same standard and level and
continue to grow and continue to get better." - New Bills DE Mario
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