Bills sign Mario Williams to 6-year deal

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Star defensive end Mario Williams has agreed to a six-year contract with the Buffalo Bills.

The deal is worth up to $100 million, with $50 million guaranteed, his agent, Ben Dogra said.

The Bills were holding a news conference Thursday afternoon at their headquarters to announce the deal with the pass-rushing specialist. ESPN first reported the two sides had reached an agreement.

Bills CEO Russ Brandon posted a note on his Twitter account, writing: “This is a great day for the Buffalo community, the Bills organization and our fans!”

Williams was at the team’s facility, and has been in discussions with Buffalo since free agency began Tuesday. Selected first overall in the 2006 draft by Houston, Williams had a franchise-best 53 sacks in six seasons with the Texans.

Listed at 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, Williams is a two-time Pro Bowl starter, and set a single-season team record with 14 sacks in 2007. Williams was limited to playing just five games last season as a result of a torn chest muscle. He also missed three games in 2010 after having surgery to repair a sports hernia.

After quarterback Peyton Manning, Williams has been regarded as one of the top free agents available this offseason.

The Bills regarded improving their pass rush as their top offseason priority, after managing just 29 sacks last season — 10 of them coming in one game.

The team spared no expense in its bid to land Williams. General manager Buddy Nix and defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt flew on a private jet to pick up Williams at his home in North Carolina to bring him back to Buffalo.

Williams spent Tuesday night dining with team management and coaches at a downtown restaurant. After taking a physical and touring the Bills facility on Wednesday morning, Williams was joined by his fiancée, who traveled to Buffalo, and was provided a tour of the region.

Bills management has said it intends to be aggressive in free agency this offseason. And signing Williams would come at a hefty price for a small-market team that has hit hard times since its Jim Kelly-led heyday in the early 1990s.

The Bills are coming off a 6-10 season, and have missed the playoffs for 12 straight years — the NFL’s longest active drought.

Williams joins a new-look defense that’s making the switch to a four linemen-three linebackers scheme under highly regarded defensive specialist Dave Wannstedt, who was promoted to coordinator in January. Williams will fit at the right defensive end position, playing alongside tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus.

Williams is a two-time Pro Bowl player, who is expected to be fully healthy after having surgery to repair a nagging foot injury. Dareus, the third player picked in last year’s draft, is coming off a promising rookie season in which he led the Bills with 5-1/2 sacks.

Chris Kelsay, a 10-year veteran, is expected to start at left defensive end.

Injuries and inexperience contributed heavily to the Bills defensive struggles. Buffalo finished 26th in the NFL in yards allowed and 30th in points allowed. Buffalo gave up 400-plus yards offense eight times last year, including a five-game run.

The 5,938 yards allowed were a franchise worst. And the 434 points allowed were the second most in team history.

Bills fans showed their support Williams throughout the three days of talks.

At the Buffalo Sabres NHL game against Colorado on Wednesday, chants of “We want Mar-io!” were heard throughout the arena. On Thursday morning, cars could be heard honking as they passed by Ralph Wilson Stadium. There were many fans who also showed up in the stadium parking lot looking for a chance to get a glimpse of Williams, or simply to be near their team’s facility to celebrate.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.