Bills Land Williams With $50 Million Guarantee

Mario Williams would have had plenty of other options. The former first overall draft pick by the , Williams was the best defensive player available this year, the rare elite pass rusher to hit the open market in his prime. But the Bills made him their goal for free agency, not just to shore up an anemic pass rush but also to give a boost to a franchise and a fan base desperate to be relevant again after not making the playoffs in a dozen seasons.

So when free agency began Tuesday, the Bills were there with a private plane to whisk Williams to Buffalo, and then they would not let him leave.

He remained there for two nights — an unusually long visit for a free agent — while the Bills plied him with everything from tours of residential neighborhoods to conversations with the former Bills star Jim Kelly.

Finally, they overwhelmed him with an offer that no other team was prepared to approach — a six-year deal that guarantees Williams $50 million, the biggest guarantee ever given to a defensive player. It surpasses by nearly 20 percent the $42 million guarantee given to Julius Peppers by the Chicago Bears only two years ago and makes Williams the third player in N.F.L. history to be guaranteed $50 million, after quarterback Sam Bradford and receiver Calvin Johnson, who got his Wednesday.

On Thursday, Williams signed, becoming the biggest free-agent acquisition in Bills history and the biggest — so far — in free agency this season.

The Bills had been a long shot to land Williams, but now that they have him, the defense that had only 29 sacks last season — only two teams had fewer — should have one of the most dominant defensive lines in the game. Williams will join end Chris Kelsay and tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus in the 4-3 defense.

The signing also sends a signal for future free agents: Buffalo is not that bad. Just ask Williams.

“You hear so much about living here, until you actually get here and see what’s here and see the fans and everything this great city has to offer, even seeing my name on pizzas — it definitely got the message across,” Williams said when he was introduced at a news conference Thursday afternoon. “You don’t get many chances like this to be the guy who can help the team get across the hump. And that’s definitely what I’m here for.”

The Bills probably overpaid a bit for Williams, but Buffalo has not had a pass rusher like Williams since Bruce Smith, who left the team in 1999. Williams has had 53 sacks in six seasons, including five in five games before he tore a pectoral muscle that ended his 2011 season.

And the signing instantly energized a franchise that started 5-2 last season — igniting hopes that it, like the Detroit Lions, was about to begin a renaissance — before fading and finishing 6-10.

Buffalo receiver Stevie Johnson, who received his own extension this off-season, offered praise on his Twitter feed for the Bills executives who made the Williams deal.

“I Love it!” he wrote. “Welcome SuperMario!”

The Texans drafted Williams in 2006 instead of taking Reggie Bush in an effort to stop Peyton Manning when he was with the Indianapolis Colts. Now, the Texans may have to take on Manning again without Williams. Manning continued to mull his options Thursday, after spending about eight hours Wednesday meeting with coaches from the Tennessee Titans.

The Titans are making a big push to sign Manning. The owner Bud Adams told a Houston television station that he had offered to make Manning a Titan for life. And on Thursday, they may have helped their chances when they signed guard Steve Hutchinson, a former Pro Bowl selection who was also being sought by Seattle, the team that drafted him.

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Bills Host Lions in Clash of Perennial Losers

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. The finally have their first win of the season. The own the NFL’s road futility record.

Fred Jackson ran for a season-best 133 yards and scored twice in leading the Bills (1-8) to a 14-12 win over the Lions on Sunday. Detroit (2-7) lost its 25th straight road game to break the record the Lions set from 2001-03.

And yes, this contest wasn’t pretty. It was played under rain-soaked conditions, befitting the sloppy — and sometimes laughable — performances of two perennial losers in a game that wasn’t decided until the final seconds.

That’s when Bills safety George Wilson recovered an onside kick and handed the ball to Chan Gailey, in honor of the coach’s first win in Buffalo since he took over in January.

The Lions, who never led, nearly pulled off a dramatic comeback when quarterback Shaun Hill hit Calvin Johnson for a 20-yard touchdown pass to cut the Bills lead to 14-12 with 14 seconds left. Hill failed on the 2-point conversion when he couldn’t find an open receiver, and eventually overthrew tight end Brandon Pettigrew in the back of the end zone.

The Bills became the NFL’s final team to win this season, and ended what had been their third-worst start to a season — and worst since going 0-11 in 1984.

The Lions have not won a game outside of Detroit in more than three years since a 16-7 victory at Chicago on Oct. 28, 2007.

Jackson opened the scoring with a 1-yard plunge two minutes into the second quarter. He then appeared to put the Bills in control by scoring on a 16-yard catch off a shovel pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick on Buffalo’s opening drive of the second half.

Fitzpatrick was 12 of 24 for 146 yards and a touchdown.

Hill finished 29 of 50 for 323 yards with a TD and an interception in making his first start in three games since breaking his left arm. Hill was forced back into action in place of Matthew Stafford, who hurt his right shoulder in a loss to the last week. Johnson had 10 catches for 128 yards.

Mistakes dominated a game between teams that haven’t reached the playoffs since the 1999 season, sharing the league’s longest active drought.

The Lions were penalized 11 times for 60 yards and had difficulty getting their offense going until the fourth quarter. They were forced to punt eight times. And Hill’s interception proved costly, setting up Jackson’s first score.

The Bills were equally inefficient.

Their defense squandered two chances to stop the Lions on their final possession of the first half, which ended with Dave Rayner hitting a 25-yard field goal to cut Buffalo’s lead to 7-3 as time ran out. The most comical play came when Bills linebacker Arthur Moats tipped Hill’s pass into the air, where three Bills players converged only to crash into each other and drop the ball.

Late in the third quarter, a holding penalty on Buffalo’s John Corto negated what would’ve been Leodis McKelvin’s 78-yard punt return for a touchdown with 5:40 left in the third quarter. And the Bills usually reliable kicker Rian Lindell missed a 41-yard field goal attempt wide right with the wind at his back at the end of the third quarter, which could’ve put Buffalo ahead 17-3.

Rayner, however, responded on the following possession by missing a 49-yard attempt wide right.

The Bills won despite losing rookie running back C.J. Spiller, who hurt his hamstring returning a punt in the second quarter. Buffalo also lost defensive end Spencer Johnson to a hamstring injury in the second half.

Rayner’s field goal was the first attempted and made by a Lions player other than Jason Hanson in 19 seasons. The Lions had signed Rayner this week after Hanson sprained his knee last week.

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