When linebacker-end Mario Williams signed a six-year contract Thursday with the Buffalo Bills worth $100 million, $50 million guaranteed, he became the highest-paid defensive player in league history.
Williams’ mega-deal followed by one day the $132 million contract the Detroit Lions gave star receiver Calvin Johnson.
Johnson’s haul is the most for any NFL player at any position.
Other than Peyton Manning, whose search for a new team continues, Williams was the most-sought free agent in this year’s class; Johnson already was under contract in Detroit.
“It’s one of those things 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’m here for,” said Williams, who was in Buffalo since the free agency period opened Tuesday, having been flown in from his home in North Carolina.
“My whole intention is to come here, work with guys like Kyle (Williams) and (Marcell) Dareus and make this thing happen.”
MANNING SWEEPSTAKES: Your move, Peyton.
This year’s top NFL free agent has heard four teams’ pitches in person.
Owners have squired him around the country on private jets. Politicians are weighing in. Fans are growing restless.
Now Manning needs to decide what happens next.
The Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals and Tennessee Titans are awaiting word from Manning, and indications Thursday are that all believe they are still in the running to sign the quarterback who is the only four-time MVP in NFL history.
There has been no tangible sign of any of them dropping out of the Manning Sweepstakes – though the chances of the Miami Dolphins, fourth team the star QB met with, reportedly are less certain.
FALCONS: Atlanta is still waiting to make its customary off-season splash.
With NFL free agency in its third day, Atlanta has yet to play its hand – a different approach for a team that added Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez, Dunta Robinson, Julio Jones and Ray Edwards in each of the past four years.
This off-season seems different, though, with Atlanta lacking a first-round draft pick and its budget tight against the league’s salary cap.
The uncertainty has caused the Falcons to let three starters – middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, right end John Abraham and center Todd McClure – test the open market.
JETS: In his most extensive comments on the locker-room turmoil that ripped apart the New York team, quarterback Mark Sanchez fired back at the unnamed teammates who criticized him in local newspaper articles after the 2011 season.
“It is a gutless thing to do,” Sanchez said during an interview on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN1050 in New York, in reference to the anonymous attacks.
Later, in a 25-minute sitdown with the media, Sanchez added: “If you’re not going to put your name on something, why waste anybody’s time? Obviously, they had strong opinions about it, but not strong enough to say who they were. “
Sanchez also accepted his share of the blame for a feud with wide receiver Santonio Holmes, saying they recently cleared the air during a dinner meeting near Holmes’ home in Orlando, Fla.