Tonawanda News — The Buffalo Bills made national headlines on March 16 when they landed the premier defensive agent on the market in Mario Williams and shocked the football world — mostly Bills fans themselves. But by the time Williams and company hit the field, reality returned: They’re still the Bills.
The Williams deal was for six years and has the potential to be worth $100 million — $50 million in guaranteed money made it the richest contract for a defensive player in the history of the NFL.
Williams struggled at the start of the season, racking up only one and a half sacks in his first five games in a Bills jersey. Fan weren’t happy and the defensive unit was under fire after an offseason that included the acquisition of fellow-defensive end Mark Anderson and the drafting of rookie cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
But things started to turn for the Bills defense right around the time Williams’ injured wrist situation started to improve. The two-time all-pro played through an injury early in the season before getting arthroscopic surgery on his left wrist before the team’s bye week at the end of October.
Since his return Williams has posted nine total sacks, including a three-sack performance in arguably his best game of the season against the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 25. The Bills still had the playoffs in their sights, and their big-time free agent hire turned in his best effort when the season was on the line.
Williams had two forced fumbles in the team’s next two games and looked more comfortable in the system and with his role. He currently sits at 34 tackles (three TFAL) and 11.5 sacks on the season.
It’s been a disappointing season, to say the least, for the Bills in 2012, as the team stands at 5-10 heading into its final game of the season against the Jets — the same team that throttled the Bills, 48-28 in the teams’ week one meeting. Many are wondering what the future looks like for a team with the NFL’s longest postseason drought (13 years and counting).
Head coach Chan Gailey has faced heavy scrutiny for conservative play-calling and questionable game plans, especially for an offense featuring running back C.J. Spiller, who logged his first 1,000-yard season despite not carrying the ball as often as most star runners. Spiller was the lone bright spot on an offense that was inconsistent at best.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had another up-and-down year. He’s been calling signals for parts of four seasons and in that time has amassed a record of 18-31 for the Bills. General Manager Buddy Nix said the team will be looking to acquire a “quarterback for the future” during the season, leading many to wonder whether the Bills might spend a high draft pick on a young player to challenge the veteran Fitzpatrick.The Tonawanda News is compiling its annual list of the top 10 stories of the year. Here's a look at the list so far: • 10: NHL lockout threatens season • 9: HSBC sells out to First Niagara • 8: Upscale eateries open in area • 7: Cuomo pledges "billion for Buffalo" • 6: Bills struggle despite landing "Super Mario"