Despite the fact that New England had a pair of first-year free agent additions tie for team lead with 10 sacks – Pro Bowler Andre Carter and Mark Anderson – the front still lacked an edge presence that other teams had to game plan for.
It just so happens that one of those elite players is available this spring through free agency as former No. 1 overall pick Mario Williams will hit the open market on March 13. In many ways Williams is the perfect fit for what Bill Belichick and the Patriots need on defense.
But don't take my word for, Gary Horton over in the Insider section on ESPN.com makes that very point. The former NFL talent evaluator lists New England as the top potential landing spot for Williams:
"The Patriots have been looking for an impact pass-rusher since they traded Richard Seymour to Oakland, even as they've patched together a rush for years, and the missing link in this defense is a guy who can be disruptive off the edge. New England plays a combination of 3-4 and 4-3 fronts, and Bill Belichick could tailor his schemes to fit Williams. New England is a good football team, has some cap space and will be elite every year as long as the quarterback situation holds to form. It's also a solid locker room. Though the Patriots don't typically make a big splash in free agency, all those things should appeal to a high-character guy like Williams. It's not the Patriots' typical move, but it's one that could work for both sides."
Williams is 27-year-old veteran of six NFL seasons. He's 6-6, 280 pounds. He has experience in both the 4-3 and the 3-4. Though he landed on injured reserve with a torn pectoral last year after just five games, he played in all 16 games in each of his first four seasons in the league.
He has 53 career sacks, with a career-best 14 in 2007. He had five sacks and a forced fumble in five games in Wade Phillips new scheme last fall before the injury.
Williams looks like the perfect candidate for the Patriots to pursue in free agency. Sort of like Adalius Thomas back in 2007, although that didn't really work out. Or Julius Peppers a couple years ago.
But he won't come cheap. Peppers went to Chicago in 2010 on a reported six-year, $91 million deal that included some $40 million in guarantees.
Sports Illustrated writer Peter King went on Boston sports talk radio recently and said that Williams should consider signing with the Patriots.
Clearly it would be a deal that could make sense for both sides on the field. But does it make "dollars and sense" off of it?
Should Williams be the Patriots top priority in free agency? Would you want the team to invest in a Peppers-like contract for Williams? Let us know with a comment below!