Atlanta Falcons: Show Super Mario Williams the money?

Mario Williams (90) has posted 53 sacks over his first six seasons with the Houston Texans. (Dave Einsel, Associated Press)

Mario Williams (90) has posted 53 sacks over his first six seasons with the Houston Texans. (Dave Einsel, Associated Press)

We’ve heard the rumor that the Falcons are going to pursue Houston Texans defensive stud Mario Williams.

There is no way the Falcons can comment on it because that would be considered tampering and a hefty fine would be in order. The Falcons would end up in Commissioner Roger Goodell’s doghouse along with the New Orleans Saints if they commented on Super Mario.

But the rumor is starting to grow legs. At least three people with ties to the NFL Network have floated this scenario. All – Steve Wyche, Bucky Brooks and Jason LaConfaro – are our pals and highly respected members of the NFL media community. Here’s some of the speculation.

Should the Falcons go after Mario Williams in free agency?

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I checked with external Falcons folks and they were on the same page: The Falcons don’t have enough cash to sign Williams. But when there doesn’t appear to be enough money, you know that president Rich McKay is a cap whiz. He and his negotiators can make just about anything happen. That makes it hard to discount the Williams’ rumors.

With the negotiations for defensive end John Abraham and middle linebacker Curtis Lofton in holding patterns, the Falcons have to do something. They can’t lose arguably their two top defenders and not replace them with someone of similar or greater stature.

We have to look to some of general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s recent comments for guidance. In an exclusive interview with the AJC on Jan. 10 he provided some hints.

Q: Can this defense, as constructed, compete for the Super Bowl title?

A: “. . . Obviously, there are still areas that we can improve upon. We need to continue to pressure the quarterback. . . . With that said, I love the tenacity of this defense. I’m encouraged by the direction of this defense. Like I’ve said since the very beginning in 2008, we will always continue to look to see where we can upgrade our talent across the depth chart and specifically on the defensive side of the ball.”

The following day at the “Come to Jesus” press conference with Arthur Blank, Dimitroff was very clear about a few things.

“We know that we need to get better in many, many areas,” Dimitroff said. “It is my job to

Should your best pass rusher be dropping into coverage on third down? Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

John Abraham has 53.5 sacks in his first six seasons in the NFL with the New York Jets before the Falcons acquired him in a trade. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

 make sure that I step back with Coach [Mike] Smith and obviously, Mr. Blank, and look at all aspects of the football operations and determine where we need to make changes and where we need to adjust going forward.”

Dimitroff noted that there would be no “sacred cows”on the roster. “I don’t care where we drafted them or how we acquired them in free agency,” Dimitroff said.

Now, finally at the NFL Scouting combine, Dimitroff gave us some more insight to the team’s offseason modus operandi after their third exit from the playoffs in four seasons. He knows they must get better and may have come to the realization that “hey, maybe the Cardinals, Packers and New York Giants were just better teams.”  The Packers and Giants did go on to win the Super Bowl. The Cardinals were a miraculous Santonio Holmes catch away from winning?

Q: How do you all rate the quality of pass rushers in this draft?

A: The edge pass rushers are something that we covet. They are not always easy to come across. There is a good group of guys that get up the field and turn the corner athletically and burst to the quarterback. We are all searching for that and they come in all different kind of packages. They don’t all have to be 6-4 and 270 pounds or 265. They at times can be 6-1, 6-1 ½ 230 pounds. It depends on the system that you are playing and there are certain systems out there that allow some to rush out of a wide-tackle nine and be very productive. Those same players might not be very productive in another system.

Free agency is set to start at 4 p.m. on Tuesday and the Falcons almost have to make a major move or two.

After turning over the coaching staff, they must upgrade the talent. While they have the fifth-most regular-season wins in the league over the last four years, they can see that the Carolina Panthers, the Detroit Lions and the San Francisco 49ers are going to be factors in the NFC.  

Other teams projected to be in the Super Mario sweepstakes are Chicago, Green Bay, Seattle, Dallas and Tennessee. In addition to the Super Mario chatter, some in the agent community believe the Falcons could also make a play for Miami defensive end Kendall Langford. He played for new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Here’s Langford’s bio.

Last season, before the Falcons signed defensive end Ray Edwards, they went after Charles Johnson, but the bidding got out of hand as Johnson received a six-year, $72 million deal. The bidding for Williams is expected to be reach the $100 to $110 million range and average more than $14 to $16 million per year.

Blank said the Falcons want to win rings and seems to know that he has to upgrade his talent after three playoff losses.

Should the Falcons go all Jerry Maguire and “Show Mario the money?” Will they blink at the sticker price? Could he be the perfect replacement for Abraham?

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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191 comments Add your comment

MIke#1

March 9th, 2012
10:24 am

Mario Williams is pretty much exactly what the Falcons need. If they don’t pursue him aggressively, I might start thinking the Falcons just aren’t going to be seriously chasing a title anytime soon.

Joe

March 9th, 2012
10:26 am

Im off to get my anus bleached…

gb5684

March 9th, 2012
10:31 am

Enter your comments here

FALZ613

March 9th, 2012
10:31 am

We need to get this guy and we need to keep Lofton….What are the odds we get a starting safety through free agency or the draft or will we be sticking with what we have?

gb5684

March 9th, 2012
10:33 am

they better they would be total fools let lofton test free agency and abraham bring in williams dent can hold his own in the middle besides spoon is a better linebacker than lofton we can also upgrade with nicholas total idiot on the field u never even know he is out there

Paul

March 9th, 2012
10:34 am

Mario Williams would be a fantastic pickup for the Falcons. That being said, it may not matter who plays on defense if our OLine play doesn’t improve dramatically next year.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 9th, 2012
10:36 am

Joe — That’s nasty!

Say It Aint So

March 9th, 2012
10:39 am

The price tag for Williams will be high. If we sign him, Lofton and Abe are gonners for sure. Let’s hope Dent can fill the void.

jp

March 9th, 2012
10:39 am

falz613- im pretty positive that we are sticking with what we have at safety. probably draft a backup in the later rounds of the draft

Jfreak13713

March 9th, 2012
10:40 am

Yes, they will make a play for Williams but they will also be smart about spending too much money on one player. See the Hawks and Joe Johnson as an example of what not to do. They need help in a few areas on defense and Williams would certainly fill a hole but they also need DB and have to decide on RB.

GDawg

March 9th, 2012
10:42 am

Two words sign him

Jamaaliver

March 9th, 2012
10:44 am

No!

Too expensive. Also…he’s never won anything.

I want proven winners. If I’m shelling out big bucks, it’s for guys who have at least done well in the playoffs year after year.

peacengrits75

March 9th, 2012
10:45 am

There’s a DE in Indianapolis on the trading block…just sayin.

Sly Boarders

March 9th, 2012
10:45 am

Talk about the draft all you want, but with the exception of the other former Texan (I don’t count Edwards, yet), TD has been money in non-draft acquisitions. IF Williams is the man (and how cool would it be to land him and Nicks, but I digress), then I have every confidence in TD and crew to make it happen. Let’s get this party started!

Go Falcons!

Ryan

March 9th, 2012
10:46 am

Mario Williams would be a great pickup, but I dont think the falcons can afford to put that ,much money in one player with so many needs. I hope Lofton resigns with the falcons. He is the best middle linebacker we have had since my all time favorite falcons player Jessie Tuggle. I think that we should make a hard run at Nicks. He would improve out oline tremendously. Ryan needs protection to be successful and lead us to the next level. Hopefully, we can draft a tight end and dl to help with our depth.

@nyc_texan

March 9th, 2012
10:47 am

Stud muffin?

JSS

March 9th, 2012
10:47 am

This is the “inflation” article I’ve been waiting for three seasons! You finally touched the “scared cows,” the running scared when Charles Johnson’s bidding hit the bizarre sphere, and lastly “they were just better teams” issue that has never sunk in with Falcons fans (especially the snarky ones)!

Mario Williams is going to cost luxury yacht money. Some folks of the same folks who crying about Abraham are going to have a stroke if the Mario deal goes to level it should under the current salary structure!

Too bad, they aren’t being honest about no “scared cows!”

t reeder

March 9th, 2012
10:48 am

they will make some more cuts to fee up some cap space !!!! and we will get mario

Jeff B

March 9th, 2012
10:49 am

@FALZ613 – Why do we need to find a starting safety? We just resigned ours…

I think we have more cap room than we think. For example, DeCoud’s cap hit this year on his new contract is only $2M. The cap hit of Snelling and Biermann is less. Grimes’ cap hit will come down a few million, after he signs a long-term extension (which I view as inevitable). Additionally, we know we can free up some more space by cutting expendable guys like Baker and perhaps Ovie.

Let’s say Mario’s eventual contract averages $14 million a year. Can we struture a contract so the first year’s cap hit is less than $12M? Yes. Can we afford $12M in cap room towards an impact signing? Yes.

So I think this is more about selling Mario on our team vs. his other suitors, and not so much about our cap situation.

**Frederick(Bailey)Douglass**

March 9th, 2012
10:50 am

Joe, thats out of order. Wrong blog. We talk Falcons here dude.

Birds would be nuts to go after Williams. We have already overspent for #23 and #93. I fully expect Bierman to be much better under Nolan. I look for Sidbury to contribute. We have very REAL needs along the O-Line. If we pass on anything it should be DE and NOT O line. We desperately need a Guard and a Tackle. The verdict is still out on Mike Johnson, but #75 and Hawley have been cast….KATS!!!!!

FBD

Greg Mendel

March 9th, 2012
10:50 am

@Paul got it right. Money — and lots of it — would be best spent on the O-line. Until we have a really solid O-line, the Ryan-White-Jones-Gonzo-Douglas tandem won’t become the terror it should be. And it SHOULD be a terror.

Keeping it Real

March 9th, 2012
10:50 am

Need to trade up in the draft to get RGIII if they really want to upgrade.

mark

March 9th, 2012
10:51 am

We simply cannot afford Super Mario, end of story. TD has always said he is not going to “leverage” the salary cap and mortgage the future. Won’t happen. Also, Lofton is good, but we can find someone else to troll the middle that does not want 8-9 million a year

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 9th, 2012
10:57 am

Just fixed my “insert poll” thingy. So now we can get an “official” vote and send it along to Mr. Blank.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 9th, 2012
10:58 am

FBD — Good. I thought Joe was out of order. Is that the health&fitness blog?

Super Bowl Shuffle

March 9th, 2012
10:58 am

Build the O-Line and D-Line, the rest will take care of itself.

Tony

March 9th, 2012
10:59 am

The defense wasn’t the problem last year! They score the only points in that playoff game against the Giants

jerry

March 9th, 2012
10:59 am

Since the NFL has a salary cap, it’s all about getting bang for your buck. Like drafting a future All Pro in the later rounds, e.g., Justin Tuck, the 74th pick when the Falcons took Babineaux with the 54th pick.. So they can’t just throw money at players. Dimitroff hasn’t gotten enough bang, more like a pop.

Frankie

March 9th, 2012
10:59 am

watch the commnets after I say this…

Do not make the same mistake the skins made with albert haynesworth…mario williams is not haynesworth…he is better. but the falcons do not need to pay him 100Million.
Make your best offer if he comes cool if not be ready for the next DE/DT..offer.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 9th, 2012
11:00 am

@nyc_texan — stud muffin?? Think I’m just going to change that to “stud.”

GB70

March 9th, 2012
11:01 am

We really need to get Williams and work some magic and get Nicks ( OG) from the AINTS …..Both offense and defense lines need upgrades

Frankie

March 9th, 2012
11:02 am

defense scored the only points in the playoffs…yeah and they got scored on 22 points more tha they scored..I would say defens IS the problem, Offense IS the problem…
HEART and agressiveness of the players on the team ARE the problem..to many business desicion tackles being made…

Sid

March 9th, 2012
11:03 am

JSS

March 9th, 2012
10:47 am
**************************************
“scared” cows? Probably if they see a really huge bull.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 9th, 2012
11:06 am

Frankie — Like the “business desicion tackles” being made line. Uncle Herm would love that. That has to stop if that’s the case.

Nookah

March 9th, 2012
11:06 am

I think we have to make a run at him if we want to have a consistent pass rush. Even though Nolan said he would rather have 5 guys get 4 sacks than one guy getting all sacks or something to that nature. Whereas I understand the rationale you cannot pass on an opportunity to get a talent like Mario.

Restructure/extend Matt’s contract and whoever else you have to do but we need Mario to bring the pain from the outside and Lofton for continuity and chemistry in the middle.

As Buck Brooks says, get Mario and we win the South. Then we’ll take it from there and the Falcons will win their first playoff game in 4 years.

Go Falcons!!!

Sid

March 9th, 2012
11:07 am

Paul

March 9th, 2012
10:34 am
Mario Williams would be a fantastic pickup for the Falcons. That being said, it may not matter who plays on defense if our OLine play doesn’t improve dramatically next year.
****************************************************
I agree totally, however if we are willing to pay that kind of money to Williams we should probably resign Abraham and work on that O line.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 9th, 2012
11:07 am

Keeping it Real – RGIII? The Falcons have a quarterback already. A quarterback with a 41-19 regular-season record. Y’all need to back off the Ice Man!

BIRDSFLYHIGH

March 9th, 2012
11:09 am

DONT DO IT! Sid & Matthews are ready to play! DONT DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!

Sid

March 9th, 2012
11:09 am

Keeping it Real

March 9th, 2012
10:50 am
Need to trade up in the draft to get RGIII if they really want to upgrade.
***********************************************
How many years of 1st round draft picks do you want to give up?

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 9th, 2012
11:10 am

FBD — Based on the recent comments coming out of FB, they are fine with the Oline and think Pat Hill and a healthy Sam Baker will smooth things out. I would think an ass-kicker like Nicks would be of interest.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 9th, 2012
11:10 am

t reeder – They may not have to make any cuts to free up the cap space.

BIRDSFLYHIGH

March 9th, 2012
11:11 am

D.LED! Most of the Falcons fans dont know a good thing when they see it! Take Matt Ryan away & we dont make the playoffs 3 out of 4 years! Know doubt he can improve but I’d rather have him than a lot of Qb’s in the league.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 9th, 2012
11:12 am

JSS – Yeah, when it happens three times, the best team may have won the game. You have to at least consider it, especially since each team won pulling away.

Sid

March 9th, 2012
11:16 am

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 9th, 2012
11:10 am
FBD — Based on the recent comments coming out of FB, they are fine with the Oline
*********************************************************************
Are you serious DLed? Say it aint so…..!! I can imagine what Ryan is mumbling to himself.

(off topic) How far has Orson Charles dropped in the draft? Obviously he didn’t do well on the Wonderlic. Get a cab dude, stay at home………..don’t be an idiot.

Joe Tess Fish House

March 9th, 2012
11:22 am

They did the same thing with cheep shot artist Donta Roberson….Showed him 2 much mony and now they are stuck with this looser.

Dont do it Mr Dummytroff. Dont over paid 4 Marino Williams.

hike!!!

March 9th, 2012
11:25 am

Wouldn’t signing Mario go against the new DC philosophy of “rather have 4 guys get 4 sacks rather than one guy getting 16.

Greg Mendel

March 9th, 2012
11:26 am

DOL — If Flowery Branch is content with the Falcons O-line, FB and opposing teams are in complete agreement.

Big Crimson 75

March 9th, 2012
11:28 am

I’ll take Mario over Abe & Loftin!!

Falcon James

March 9th, 2012
11:30 am

Would like to have him, but I think the price will be too high. Can’t afford to let Lofton go. Abe is a gonner for sure. I think the Bierman deal is going to factor into this as well. I want to see what we going to do with that pitiful O-Line we got.

DC Dirty Bird

March 9th, 2012
11:32 am

I’m tired of fans being as JSS says “scared cows” when it comes to free agency. In my opinion, other than Peerless Price, our FA pick ups were good, we just miscasted. Edwards would be better rushing opposite Williams. Robinson would be better playing press coverage.

BUILD THE DEFENSE FIRST! We don’t need Nicks, we need a better LT.