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 Continue Spiral in 30-23 Loss to Dolphins

Fitzpatrick labored again in Buffalo’s 30-23 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, throwing a season-high three interceptions that contributed to the Bills’ seventh straight loss.

“I just haven’t been able to connect for whatever reason,” Fitzpatrick said. “As the one that is the leader of this offense, we haven’t played well as an offense, and a lot of that falls on me. I’ve got to be better, bottom line.”

Fitzpatrick’s decline has been swift. During the first seven games, he helped lead the Bills to a 5-2 record by completing 67.6 percent of his passes while throwing 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

He has 12 interceptions and eight touchdown passes since — a skid that has the Bills at the bottom of the AFC East.

“It’s not a one-person show, everybody’s down,” receiver Stevie Johnson said. “Nobody’s pointing fingers.”

Though both AFC East teams are 5-9, the Dolphins have moved ahead of Buffalo in the division after sweeping the season series following a 35-8 win at Miami a month ago. The Bills are in jeopardy of finishing last in the division for a fourth straight season.

“Very frustrated,” linebacker Chris Kelsay said. “We started off the way we did, and we had a lot of confidence. I haven’t really seen that confidence lately.”

Reggie Bush took advantage of Buffalo’s fragile psyche, rushing for a career-high 203 yards for the Dolphins in interim coach Todd Bowles’ debut after Tony Sparano was fired last week. His 76-yard TD run helped seal the victory.

“Reggie’s an elusive back in space, and he’s great at making guys miss,” Bills safety George Wilson said. “They got him going early.”

Matt Moore showed no signs of a head and neck injury that sidelined him a week ago by throwing two touchdown passes — a 22-yarder to Anthony Fasano and a 65-yard strike to Brandon Marshall — and finishing with 217 yards passing.

Cornerback Vontae Davis had two of Miami’s three interceptions and Dan Carpenter hit three field goals in helping the Dolphins win for the fifth time in seven games following a 0-7 start.

C.J. Spiller scored on a 24-yard rush — the longest run this season against Miami — and added a 3-yard touchdown catch, and Fitzpatrick finished 31 of 47 for 316 yards.

“It’s hard for me to go out there and turn the ball over three times and struggle like I did,” Fitzpatrick said.

The Bills made it close by recovering an onside kick that led to Dave Rayner hitting a 34-yard field goal with 1:22 left. Rayner failed on his next onside attempt, which Chris Clemons recovered to allow Miami to run all but the final seconds off the clock.

Bush secured the win with his electrifying run up the middle to put the Dolphins up 30-13 with 5:41 left.

It came on the first play from scrimmage after Spiller’s 3-yard score. Breaking through a huge hole up the middle, he blew past safety Jairus Byrd, who was the only Buffalo player to get a hand on him.

Bush then capped the run by sliding through the end zone on a slick field.

His 203 yards rushing rank third on the Dolphins’ list. And Bush has three straight 100-yard games and four this season after he had just one in five seasons in New Orleans.

Moore broke the game open in the third quarter when he hit Marshall in stride up the right sideline for an over-the-shoulder 65-yard touchdown pass.

The Bills’ next two possessions ended with Fitzpatrick throwing interceptions.

After Spiller scored on his 24-yard scamper 10 minutes in, Buffalo mustered only four first downs on their final six possessions of the half — three of them coming on their final drive.

“Obviously, we’re not where we want to be,” Johnson said. “I think we all need to dig deep. We can’t just keep taking these losses like this.”

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Bills LB Kelsay Out for Eagles Game

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo Bills starting linebacker Chris Kelsay’s calf injury will keep him out of Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles (1-3), and it could keep him sidelined for an extended period of time.

Kelsay was injured during Thursday’s practice, and coach Chan Gailey said Friday Kelsay would be “out for a little while.”

Starting cornerback Terrence McGee (hamstring) is expected to play after missing the past three games. His return would bolster a depleted Bills defensive backfield against an Eagles explosive offense led by quarterback Michael Vick.

Rookie cornerback Aaron Williams will miss his second straight game because of a chest injury for the Bills (3-1).

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