New look Bills hope to improve by leaps and bounds

Head Coach Chan Gailey has a simple plan for this upcoming season. Find as many good players as you can and let them battle it out for a position.  If you win, you play.

“We made some good additions to our football team. We said at the end of the season, our biggest challenge was to improve our pass rush, and that’s what we have done to this point. We haven’t done it on the field, but at least we’ve done it on paper. We’re excited about that. And when you help your football team in one area, you help your football team – there’s a ripple effect in a lot of different areas. So help your team in a lot of ways.” – Coach Chan Gailey on Buffalo upgrading its pass rush with free agents Mario Williams and Mark Anderson.

But the key for the year will be a defense that ranked the  third worst in the NFL giving up 27.1 points a game.

New Defensive Coordinator Dave Wannstedt is looking to switch the Buffalo Bills defensive scheme from 3-4 to 4-3 and, with the help of former Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly, they are keying in on and signing the right players.  That was evident when the team offered former Houston Texan Mario Williams a 6-year deal worth over $100 million.  Williams will most likely switch back to his natural DE position.

On the opposite of Williams will be Mark Anderson who also signed a long term deal.  The former Patriot had fantastic  2011 season and finished with 10 sacks on the year.   Both players are expected to make such an impact for the team that the Bills are already being proclaimed the “unofficial season champs.”

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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 Acquire Prized Free Agent Mario Williams

Terms of the contract were not disclosed but media said the deal would make Williams, 27, the highest-paid defensive player in the National Football League (NFL).

Williams, who was flown to Buffalo this week on a private jet with the team’s general manger and defensive coordinator, said he was excited about joining the organization and said a determined fan base that showed support by putting his name on pizzas and on signs along roads helped get the message across.

“You don’t get many chances like this and opportunities to come in and be the guy who can help the team get across the hump and that’s definitely what I am here for,” Williams told reporters at his introductory news conference.

“My whole intention is to come here … and make this thing happen. It’ a great opportunity for myself and the team and for us to succeed and get better. This city is looking for that.”

Williams, regarded as one of the top free agents available, was drafted first overall in 2006 by the Houston Texans and would be counted on to bolster a Bills defence that managed just 29 sacks last season.

His signing gave Buffalo their most accomplished pass rusher since Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Smith, who left the team in 2000 as the franchise and NFL all-time sacks leader.

The Bills, who finished 6-10 in the 2011 campaign and missed the playoffs for the 12th straight year, entered the offseason intent on bolstering their pass rush.

Williams, who was limited to five games last season due to a torn chest muscle, has 53 sacks and 241 tackles in 82 career games during six NFL seasons with the Texans.

“It’s an exciting day for us and for our football team, we got a lot better,” said Bills General Manager Buddy Nix.

“Once we got him here and got him to listen, not to people who have heard about Buffalo but the people who live here, then you find out what unique place it is and he’s going to help it get even better.”

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; editing by Julian Linden)

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