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2012 NFL Free Agency: Is Mario Williams in Teal a Possibility?

Between the 2007-2010 seasons, Mario Williams racked up 43.5 sacks making him one of only six NFL pass rushers to accumulate over 40 sacks during that span (DeMarcus Ware, Jared Allen, John Abraham, James Harrison, Trent Cole and Williams. With a move to a 3-4, Williams became an outside linebacker and had no problem racking up five sacks in five games before a torn pectoral ended his year. If a player of his quality were to hit the open market, there's no doubt the demand for them would be high and they would receive a very large contract.

$22.9 million per year is too much for any team, though. That's the amount that the Houston Texans would have to pay Williams if they were to use the franchise tag on him. An amount that would likely make him the highest paid player in the NFL for the 2012 season and an amount that John McClain of the Houston Chronicle says the Texans "can't afford."

So now the Texans are faced with no other choice than to come to terms on a long-term deal with the former first overall pick before he officially becomes an unrestricted free agent on March 13, exactly 48 days from today. They must do so while also worrying about re-signing superstar running back Arian Foster and other expiring contracts such as G Mike Brisiel, TE Joel Dreessen, C Chris Meyers, among others. Which boils down to a very real possibility, if not likelihood, that Mario Williams will hit the free agent market in March.

Among the teams that could, or at least should be interested are the Jaguars. The Jaguars haven't had a player reach double-digits in sacks since Bobby McCray did so in 2006 and it's been since 2007 that a player other than Jeremy Mincey racked up more than five sacks. The need for a legitimate pass rusher has been a problem for a long time for the Jaguars and while Mincey had a breakout year of sorts, it still wasn't nearly as strong as the years of some of the elite pass rushers.

Mincey racked up five of his eight sacks during the 2011 season against the lowly Indianapolis Colts and while he was a presence in the 14 other games, he's simply not in the same tier as Mario Williams. Yet as the free agency period approaches, Mincey is going to be a free agent and is said to not be willing to take a hometown discount to stay in Jacksonville.

And who can blame him? He's played very well the last two seasons and has earned the paycheck that he has spent most of his life working and training for. I hope for his sake that he gets what he wants, but the Jaguars must evaluate what they are paying for.

If they are to re-sign Mincey it is doubtful that they would have the remaining resources to go after Williams and still be able to bring in an elite receiver. It seems that the most realistic scenario is that the team will have to choose between keeping Mincey in Jacksonville or going after a replacement, which could be more expensive.

There's no doubt that Williams will demand more money in free agency, but is the difference in money going to be as significant as the difference in level of play?