Bills sign Williams to massive deal

The Buffalo Bills on Thursday signed the NFL's premier free-agent defender, Mario Williams. (JOHN...

The Buffalo Bills on Thursday signed the NFL's premier free-agent defender, Mario Williams. (JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency)

John Kryk, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Wide right? Thing of the past. This time, the Buffalo Bills kicked it straight down the middle.

The Bills on Thursday silenced the snickering skeptics across America and signed the NFL's premier free-agent defender, Mario Williams, to a six-year contract worth up to $100 million.

Yes, nine figures. That's a lot of bills, especially from the Bills.

Super Mario is super rich, and understandably is one happy man.

"I'm just so excited," Williams said at the afternoon news conference held at the Bills' headquarters, where more than two dozen local media had been gathered for hours.

"It's been a long couple of days, and I'm tired. But it's definitely worth it."

The gargantuan deal makes Williams the highest-paid defender in the NFL.

He'll earn an average of $16.7 million per season, surpassing the $15.25 million that Julius Peppers of the Chicago Bears makes annually.

What's more, a staggering $50 million of Williams' contract is guaranteed, unprecedented for an NFL defensive player.

The guarantee even rivals that of wideout Calvin "Megatron" Johnson, who on Wednesday was given $60 million guaranteed by the Detroit Lions in a seven-year, $132-million extension -- the most lucrative deal in league history.

The Bills never have signed a free agent of Williams' magnitude. Or even close, really. Bryce Paup? Takeo Spikes? A washed-up Terrell Owens? Please.

After Peyton Manning, Williams was by far the most coveted free agent in this year's crop.

The 27-year-old Williams amassed 53 sacks with the Houston Texans over the past six seasons, and is viewed as one of the league's premier terrorizers of quarterbacks.

"This takes us one more step closer to where we want to be," Bills head coach Chan Gailey said. "We talk about wanting to be champions, and that's the goal. There is no other goal, and he helps us get one step closer to that."

Waves of disbelief reverberated around the league mid-day Thursday after tweeted reports confirmed the deal was done. Indeed, nobody saw this signing coming three days ago. Not the most connected NFL insiders across America, nor certainly anyone in Buffalo.

But for weeks, Bills GM Buddy Nix did not hide the fact that the club was going to aim high this year, after 13 seasons of futility and missing the playoffs. The team and its fans never have gotten over the sting of four consecutive Super Bowl losses in the early 1990s, the most ruinous of which was in 1991 when Scott Norwood barely missed a game-winning field goal, wide right.

Nix seems anxious to turn those pages.

"If there's a guy out there who can come in here and make us better, we're going to go after him," he told QMI Agency last week. "We may not get him ... but we're going to make a run."

Run? It was more like a crawl.

Whereas other free agents took only minutes or hours to grab big-money offers this week, it took almost three days for Williams and the Bills to get this thing done.

Contrary to speculation, the delay had nothing to do with trying to convince him, or his fiancee, to like Buffalo.

"I came into this with a completely open mind," Williams said. "It was so comfortable (here). Before anybody said anything about any numbers -- that was pretty much it.

"Everything is in reach here. If you want to go to Toronto, or fly to New York -- it's right there. They told me once you get here, you'll see why people live here and stay here ... The two days of being here it was necessary for me to digest that, and see all the (good) things."

The 6-foot-6, 286-pound Williams, from Richlands, N.C., was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2006 draft out of North Carolina State. Twice he has been an all-pro and Pro Bowl selection with the Texans. He was banged up the past two seasons and missed 14 games.

Opposing quarterbacks still know who he is, though.

"Congrats to Mario Williams signing in Buffalo ... far away from the NFC north, thanks big guy," Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers tweeted.

Quarterbacks who are not so thankful? Rival QBs in the AFC East, in which the Bills play, including New England's Tom Brady and New York Jets' Mark Sanchez. They'll now face Williams twice a year. As well as two solid defensive linemates, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus.

"That was one huge sell to me," Williams said, "having those two guys pushing the pocket -- and, ya know, hopefully I get the sacks."

The Bills didn't wait to make their pitch to Williams on Tuesday, flying him into Buffalo immediately after free-agency opened at 4 p.m. EDT. Talks began that night, slowly progressing through Wednesday and into Thursday afternoon.

Evidently it takes time to dot 100 million I's and cross 100 million T's.

"I'll let you guys talk about numbers, you know, and that's fine," he said. "But after signing, it's football now."

In Buffalo. Wow.

john.kryk@sunmedia.ca

@JohnKryk

blogs.canoe.ca/KrykSlants


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