Pretty much every Chargers’ fan became resigned to the fact that the Bolts would not be contenders for Houston Texans’ free agent pass rusher Mario Williams due to the lofty price tag that he will likely command. Now that free agency is imminent and set to begin on Tuesday March 13th at 4PM EST, it appears that the Bolts may be in the running after all for landing the former first overall selection this offseason.
According to U-T San Diego, the Chargers met with Williams’ agent, Ben Dogra, at the NFL Scouting Combine and even though it is unknown whether the sack artist was the topic of conversation, it seems only logical to assume that his name came up once or twice. Reportedly the Bolts have an unknown price that they are willing to pony up to land the free agent.
He may have only suited for five games in 2011 due to a torn pectoral muscle that prematurely ended last year’s campaign, but Williams was able to familiarize himself with Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense and acclimate to the outside linebacker position after making the move from lining up with his hand in the dirt. 53 sacks for Williams in six years speaks for itself as the 27 year old readies himself to cash in on a lucrative free agent market where premier pass rushers are at a premium.
Pass rush has been a real issue for the Bolts’ defense since the downfall of Shawne Merriman and his subsequent departure from San Diego. Shaun Phillips has been the one consistent producer for the defense, but a miss on Larry English in the NFL Draft in 2009 and a swing and a miss on Travis LaBoy in free agency last season left the team still looking for someone to get to the opposing quarterback.
This year seems like the perfect storm for the front office to make a real splash in the free agency pool given the massive amount of cap room the team is expected to have and their back-to-back disappointing seasons. The fact that reports say the team has a specific amount of money that it would be willing to spend in order to land Williams is a very positive sign, but they must be careful not to overextend just for one player. A difference maker on defense would really inch this club closer to that elusive championship that they have been coveting in years past, but there are more holes than just outside linebacker to fill this offseason.
Plenty of other happenings could drive the Bolts pursuit of Williams however as one player the team was really hoping to land, Indianapolis Colts defensive end Robert Mathis, re-signed with Indy. This took one more viable name off of the free agent list for the team when looking to address their pass rush deficiencies.
Another element that may be weighing on the front office is the danger of Illinois sack machine Whitney Mercilus going higher in the NFL Draft than originally anticipated. Prior to the NFL Scouting Combine, many had heard of Mercilus and he was on plenty of radars, but not considered a first rounder. Now after his showing at the Combine and an outstanding pro day to back it up as he improved on every time from Indianapolis and wowed plenty of scouts with his fluidity and smoothness of movement.
If the Chargers cannot land a premier pass rusher this offseason, the trend of less victories and more disgruntled fans is likely to continue. The NFL today is about getting pressure on the opposing quarterback and providing time for your own. The Bolts have been lacking in both areas in recent years and desperately need to bolster those spots on the roster.
General Manager A.J. Smith insists that his philosophy for team-building has not changed coming into this offseason and that the draft will again be his primary focus. Something tells me that with his job potentially on the line in 2012, Smith may begin to broaden his horizons when it comes to player acquisitions and adding Williams from the Texans may be the first step in that transformation.
Now it’s your turn! What do you make of the news that the Bolts were talking to Mario Williams’ agent at the Combine? How high do you think the price tag is that the Chargers will be willing to pay for Super Mario? Do you think that worries about Mathis not being a free agent and Mercilus not being available with the 18th pick will push the team even harder to sign Williams? Will this be the year that GM Smith goes on a spending spree and revamps the Bolts or are these just dreams at this point? Please fill up the comments section below with your thoughts!
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