The Buffalo Bills franchise has done a lot in the last year to transcend its recent reputation as an organization so moribund, it had to make side deals with Canada just to stay fiscally relevant. First, there was the seven-year, $62 million deal given to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, and then, the five-year, $36 million contact given to receiver Stevie Johnson just last week. Add in a very solid draft in 2011 and a few solid free-agent moves, and the Bills were coming closer to looking like a team truly heading back to relevance for the first time in a long time.
With the six-year, $100 million contract presented to former Houston Texans defensive end Mario Williams, the Bills basically cut to the front of the line, putting the finishing touch on what should be a terrifying defensive front. Williams is the capper on the Bills' move back to a 4-3 defense.
"I was just so excited to come here and see the city," Williams said in a press conference that started almost two hours late, because he was signing the contract. "When you get here and you see what's in front of you, see the fans and everything this great city has to offer ... seeing my name on pizzas and things like that was kind of crazy, but it definitely got the message across.
"I think the biggest thing for me was coming here and being able to see the coaches -- the D-line coach, the general manager, and this stadium -- just what's going on here as far as taking the next step and the endless possibilities."
Williams' rave review was a far cry from the pans the city of Buffalo has received from other famed NFL players in the past -- particularly New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who had the city bristling when he questioned the quality of Buffalo's hotels in February.
"I don't know if any of you guys have ever been to the hotels in Buffalo, but they're not the nicest places in the world," Brady quipped, praising his father for actually deigning to traipse to Buffalo once a year to watch his son play.
For Williams, it was easier to buy into the city when he got a good look at the direction of the team during a three-day visit.
"You don't get many 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. My whole intention is to come here and work with guys like [defensive tackle] Kyle [Williams], and [defensive tackle Marcell] Dareus, and make this thing happen."
With Dareus and the two Williamses in tow, the Bills now have a defense that will be feared by every opposing offense in the NFL.
"This signing basically shows the direction the Buffalo Bills are going," Bills linebacker Kirk Morrison told the NFL Network. "Basically, nowhere but up. They said that there were some key spots they wanted to add to the football team -- some front-line guys. And when you have a guy like Mario Williams ... I mean, wow. He's a playmaker, and our defense is going to love having him. I can't wait to start working with him, and he was one of the reasons why I wanted to come back -- I saw a vision of where the team is going."
"You can't help but be excited right now," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "This is a big step up for us. We get a player like him, and our work is nowhere near done, but it's definitely a step in the right direction, and we're really excited about it."
Williams was the happiest of all. "I'm ecstatic. I'm really excited, and I can't wait to get out there and make things happen."