The Houston Texans had the second ranked defense in the league last season despite their best pass rusher only appearing in five games. Mario Williams went down with a pectoral injury during the Texans’ Week 5 matchup against the Oakland Raiders. Houston isn’t expected to resign Williams meaning his services may be available to the highest bidder.
With sack-master John Abraham becoming a free agent once the season ended, the Atlanta Falcons are in the dubious position of trying to decide whether to resign him at his asking price of $12 million or look for an upgrade at his position. Although Abraham led the team with 9.5 sacks last season, he will be 34 when the 2012 season starts.
Abraham has also been more injury-prone over the past few seasons although that really isn’t an argument to bring in Williams. Although Williams didn’t miss a game during his first four years in the league, he has missed fourteen games over the past two seasons.
Still Williams has more upside than Abraham has at this point in their careers. Williams is almost seven years younger than Abraham and just celebrated his 27th birthday this past January. Williams who is 6’6” and 283 pounds is also bigger and taller than Abraham who stands about 6’4” and 263 pounds.
To his credit, Abraham has played at a very high level and has 5.5 more sacks than Williams has had since Williams entered the league back in 2006. This will be Abraham’s 13th year in the league though, and it’s risky to give a defensive player the kind of money Abraham is asking for. Especially when there is no one behind him who has shown the ability to pick up their production in his absence.
The Falcons had hoped that some of the defensive linemen they have drafted over the past four years would have developed more by now. Atlanta just resigned Kroy Biermann who had all of 2.5 sacks in a reserve role last year. They also have Lawrence Sidbury and Peria Jerry on the bench but the three of them had only 6.5 sacks combined last season.
Ray Edwards who they signed away from the Minnesota Vikings during the 2011 offseason wasn’t very effective for the Falcons either. He only had 3.5 sacks. The Falcons were also a little more vulnerable up the middle of their defense although some of that could have been because of defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux’s struggles last season.
Babineaux went down the first game of the season with a partially torn MCL and wasn’t the same when he finally came back a month later. He only had one sack last season after registering no less than three sacks in the four seasons proceeding last year.
So do the Falcons sign Abraham and hope some of these other guys will develop or do they need to infuse the defense with Williams’ youth and play-making ability?
As much as Abraham has done anchoring Atlanta’s defense the last six years it’s hard to argue with results but he is at that age where a major decline is all but inevitable. Besides, as good as he has been it’s doubtful he’d get the kind of money he’s asking for anywhere else. Not at his age.
Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and is also an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He can be contacted at RHall_TPFB@Yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist and add him on Facebook Roosevelt Hall Thesportmentalist.