by Eric Morano
When the Buffalo Bills 2011 season came to a conclusion, Bills General Manager Buddy Nix addressed the media announcing the team's offseason plans. He made it very clear that the team's No. 1 goal this offseason was to improve the NFL's worst pass-rush. The Bills defensive totaled just 29 sacks in 2011, the league worst.
After the press conference, Nix said many things that had the ears of Bills fans perk up and really listen. Nix said the team would be aggressive in free agency, if there was an impact player that could immediately make their team better.
Being aggressive in free agency is something Bills haven't done in sometime.
When Nix took over as Bills general manager in 2009 he said he would build this team through the draft and not be a high spender during free agency. So when Nix said the Bills would be aggressive this year in free agency, Bills fan took notice.
When free agency began at 4 p.m. on March 13, Nix and defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt boarded a private plan to pick up the top defensive free agent, defensive end Mario Williams. Williams was the first overall pick in 2006 by the Houston Texans. During his six seasons with the Texans, he recorded 53 sacks and 241 tackles.
Williams had a two-and-a-half day visit with the Bills. On the visit, Williams saw the football facilities and the Western New York area. Williams eventually signed a six-year, $100 million contract ($50 million guaranteed) with the Bills.
At the press conference to introduce Williams as a Buffalo Bill, he said a big part of his signing with the Bills was the family atmosphere in Western New York - and the chance to play with Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus on the defensive line.
With the signing of Williams, the Bills the got the No. 1 player they wanted in free agency. The contract that the Bills signed Williams to makes him the highest paid defensive player in the history of the NFL.
With the large contract the Bills gave to Williams, many people thought the Bills were done in free agency. That all changed when the Bills brought in defensive end Mark Anderson on March 21 for a visit. Anderson totaled 10 sacks in 2011 with the New England Patriots. He was drafted in the fifth round in the 2006 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears. Anderson agreed to join the Bills by signing a four-year, $27 million contract ($8 million guaranteed). He said the signing of Williams was big reason why he decided to sign with the Bills. Anderson played with Williams in Houston.
With these two big free agent auditions, the Bills seem to have a pass rush that has been missing for years. The front four of Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Dareus and Anderson gives the Bills a defensive line that could put fear into opposing quarterbacks.
With the signing of a high profile free agent such as Mario Williams, the Bills more credibility in the league and perhaps will attract other top free agents in the future.