By Peter Gleason
NFL free agency doesn’t start for another couple of weeks, but if Howie Boy Roseman, the Eagles big boss, knows what he is doing — a doubtful assumption — he’ll already be maneuvering to sign Mario Williams.
The Eagles have roughly $30 million in projected cap space and only eight unrestricted free agents potentially hitting the market in March.
But with Fletcher Cox due a huge extension and Sam Bradford probably commanding $15 million-$20 million per year on a new contract, Roseman and coach Doug Pederson do not have unlimited flexibility.
Even if the Eagles focus on in-house retention, though, there is at least one buy-low free agent who could deliver them a premium return.
As ESPN.com has suggested, Williams’ production and lackluster effort in 2015 was woeful, and he ended the season with his lowest sack total since his rookie year.
The Eagles might understandably balk at Williams for publicly hanging Rex Ryan out to dry, given their issues with player-coach relations during Chip Kelly’s regime. But playing under Jim Schwartz, Philly’s new defensive coordinator, Williams posted a career-high 14.5 sacks in 2014.
Schwartz’s aggressive one-gapping scheme formed a nice marriage with Williams’ skill set then, and there is little reason to believe it would not rejuvenate the 31-year-old after a down season. The Eagles have a nice pass-rushing trio with Cox, Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry, but adding Williams would give Philly’s defense a fine run-stopper.