Meet the richest defensive player in NFL history

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Meet the richest defensive player in NFL history

From Comcast SportsNet
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- New England quarterback Tom Brady might want to watch his back. The Jets' Mark Sanchez, too. After spending the past six seasons harassing quarterbacks for the Houston Texans, defensive end Mario Williams -- one of the NFL's top pass-rushers -- has found new motivation in a whopping contract and a new home in the AFC East with the Buffalo Bills. "I'm ecstatic, very excited. I can't wait for the opportunity," Williams said Thursday after signing a six-year deal potentially worth 100 million. "There's no pressure. I've played against great quarterbacks. And I'm looking forward to playing against these quarterbacks, chasing them down and making things happen." Williams' deal, which includes 50 million in guaranteed money, is the richest ever given to an NFL defensive player. It came after two days of talks, which started when the Bills flew the former top draft pick to Buffalo on a private jet Tuesday, shortly after the NFL's free agency period opened. Terms of Williams' contract were provided by the player's agent, Ben Dogra. "We got a lot better," Buffalo general manager Buddy Nix said, noting that the Bills addressed their highest offseason priority by bolstering what had been an anemic pass rush. "Good things come to the people that wait. So you guys have been waiting, and we've got a good thing here." Though the contract was agreed to shortly after noon, the news conference to introduce Williams was delayed by more than two hours as the two sides worked out the final details. The wait was even longer for Nix, who noted the Bills pro scouts identified Williams as their key target since January. "The No. 1 guy for us from Day 1 was this guy," Nix said. "Obviously, you don't do anything until he hits free agency, but it's been a long process. And it's been fun, especially since it turned out right." After quarterback Peyton Manning, Williams has been regarded as one of the top free agents available this offseason. Williams' addition immediately improves a defense that had difficulty applying pressure since Aaron Schobel was released before the 2010 season. Buffalo managed just 27 sacks in 2010, and 29 sacks last season, 10 coming in one game. Listed at 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, Williams is a two-time Pro Bowl starter and had a franchise-best 53 sacks in six seasons with the Texans. 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. Williams said he's healthy, and is accustomed to the playing in the spotlight. The Texans were initially questioned for overlooking running back Reggie Bush by drafting Williams with the No. 1 pick in 2006. "The only pressure and motivation I have is to come in here and do what I need to do with my teammates and for us to succeed," Williams said. Coach Chan Gailey is looking forward to seeing Williams help a line that features two solid tackles in Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. Kyle Williams 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 5-12 sacks. "I can't put a percentage on how much better we are, but I know we're appreciatively better," Gailey said. "A better pass rush makes a better secondary. A better defense makes a better offense. It all works together." Mario Williams was intrigued by Buffalo, and did his homework after getting the sense the Bills might pursue him in free agency. In the past few weeks, he spoke to players familiar with the city, and his Texans position coach, Bill Kollar, who spent two seasons with the Bills. Then he got a chance to learn more about the city over the past two days touring the region, along with his fiance, Erin Marzouki, who arrived in Buffalo on Wednesday. What Williams discovered is that Buffalo reminded him of his small-town home of Richlands, N.C. "It was just like going back," he said. "I couldn't say no, it's a family atmosphere here." He immediately noted Bills fans' passion for football, and how many came up with colorful ways to urge Williams to sign with Buffalo. The best example was seeing pictures of a local pizza place using pepperoni to spell out "Come Mario 90" on its pies, the 90 referring to Williams' number in Houston. The avid outdoorsman, Williams also found a hunting partner in the get-acquainted process, Bills' Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. Kelly played a role in the recruiting by inviting Williams and Marzouki over to his house in suburban Buffalo. It was during the visit that Williams happened to spot nine deer in Kelly's backyard. More important, Williams believes he can make a difference on a team that got off to a 5-2 start last year before unraveling by losing eight of its last 10. "You saw from the very beginning of last year what is capable here," Williams said. "We're just adding more pieces." And Williams is a big one.

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox, Cubs both drop series openers

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox, Cubs both drop series openers

Here are some of Monday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Preview: Cubs look to bounce back vs. Giants tonight on CSN

White Sox fall to Diamondbacks in series opener

Cubs can't complete another miracle comeback against Giants bullpen

Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

How Bears are using veteran videos to school rookies on NFL way

Luis Robert the latest high-end acquisition for White Sox

For Joe Maddon, Cubs winning World Series came down to Giant comeback in SF and avoiding Johnny Cueto in elimination game

Carlos Rodon 'getting closer' but still without time frame for return

Have the Cubs found their new leadoff hitter in Ben Zobrist?

MMQB's Peter King's thoughts on Trubisky, Howard, White and the Bears offense

Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

“That’s what we’re supposed to look like,” Joe Maddon said Monday night after a 6-4 loss where the San Francisco Giants scored the first six runs and Wrigley Field got loudest for the David Ross “Dancing with the Stars” look-in on the big video board, at least until a late flurry from the Cubs.

But for a manager always looking for the silver linings, Maddon could replay Addison Russell’s diving stop to his right and strong throw from deep in the hole at shortstop to take a hit away from Christian Arroyo. Or Albert Almora’s spectacular flying catch near the warning track in center field. Or Anthony Rizzo stealing another hit from Brandon Belt with a diving backhanded play near the first-base line.

The highlight reel became a reminder of how the Cubs won 103 games and the World Series last year – and made you wonder why the 2017 team hasn’t played the same consistently excellent defense with largely the same group of personnel.

“Concentration?” Jason Heyward said, quickly dismissing the theory a defensive decline could boil down to focus or effort. “No shot. No shot. It is what it is when it comes to people asking questions about last year having effects, this and that. But this is a new season.

“The standard is still high. What’s our excuse? We played later than anybody? That may buy you some time, but then what?

“The goals stay the same. We just got to find new ways to do it when you have a different team.”

FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver’s statistical website, framed the question this way after the Cubs allowed the lowest batting average on balls in play ever last season, an analysis that goes all the way back to 1871: “Have the Cubs Forgotten How to Field?”

Even if the Cubs don’t set records and make history, they should still be better than 23rd in the majors in defensive efficiency, with 37 errors through 43 games. The Cubs have already allowed 28 unearned runs after giving up 45 all last season.

“We just got to stay on it and keep focusing and not let the miscues go to our head,” Ben Zobrist said. “We just have to keep working hard and staying focused in the field. A lot of that’s the rhythm of the game. I blame a lot of that on the early parts of the season and the weather and a lot of difficult things that we’ve been going through.

“If we’re not hitting the ball well, too, we’re a young team still, and you can carry that into the field. You don’t want to let that happen, but it’s part of the game. You got to learn to move beyond miscues and just focus on the next play.”

Heyward, a four-time Gold Glove winner, missed two weeks with a sprained right finger and has already started nine times in center field (after doing that 21 times all last season). Zobrist has morphed back into a super-utility guy, starting 16 games at second base and 15 in two different outfield spots.

[MORE CUBS: Have the Cubs found their new leadoff hitter in Ben Zobrist?]

Maddon has tried to drill the idea of making the routine play into Javier Baez’s head, so that the uber-talented second baseman can allow his natural athleticism and instincts to take over during those dazzling moments.

The Cubs are basically hoping Kyle Schwarber keeps the ball in front of him in left and setting the bar at: Don’t crash into your center fielder. Like Schwarber and Almora, catcher Willson Contreras hasn’t played a full season in The Show yet, and the Cubs are now hoping Ian Happ can become a Zobrist-type defender all over the field.

“I’m seeing our guys playing in a lot of different places,” Heyward said. “It’s not just been penciling in every day who’s going to center field or right field or left field. We did shake things up some last year, but we did it kind of later in the season. We had guys settle in, playing every day. This year, I feel like we’re having guys in different spots.

“It’s May whatever, (but) it seems like we haven’t really had a chance to settle in yet. Not that we’re procrastinating by any means, but it’s just been a lot of moving pieces.”

The Giants won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 with a formula that incorporated lights-out pitching, airtight defense and just enough clutch pitching. The Cubs are now a 22-21 team trying to figure it out again.

“Defense comes and goes, just like pitching,” said Kris Bryant, the reigning National League MVP, in part, because of his defensive versatility. “I feel like if you look at last year, it’s kind of hard to compare, just because it was so good. We spoiled everybody last year. Now we’re a complete letdown this year.”

Bryant paused and said: “Just kidding. Different years, things regress, things progress, and that’s just how it goes sometimes.”