For fans it was an agonizing three days of waiting, but the Bills have landed the best possible pass rush answer on the free agent market in defensive end Mario Williams.
Williams returned to One Bills Drive Thursday morning after spending a second night in Buffalo in the midst of his free agent visit and finalized a multi-year contract agreement with the Bills late in the afternoon.
"I want you to remember good things come to the people that wait so you have been waiting and we have a good thing here," said Bills GM Buddy Nix. "I just want to tell you it is an exciting day for us and our football team. We got a lot better. For our organization it has been a long day or a long two days but it's worth the wait."
The addition of Williams to Buffalo's defensive line instantly vaults the Bills front four up among the best in the league and almost certainly in the AFC East.
"I think the biggest thing for me is coming here, being able to see the coaches, the D-line coach, the GM, the stadium and what is going on around here as far as taking the next step and producing," said Williams. "Just the endless possibilities and the great guys upstairs in the front office just sold me immediately. It's one of those things that you don't get many chances and opportunities like this to be the guy who can help the team get over the hump and that is definitely what I am here for.
Buffalo's nickel package defensive line could possibly line up with Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Chris Kelsay or Shawne Merriman, a foursome that offers pass rush ability entirely across the front.
"I can't put a percentage on how much better we are but I know we're appreciatively better and I know that we will get more pressure on the passer," said head coach Chan Gailey.
Williams has logged 53 sacks in 82 career games and is the best free agent pass rushing upgrade for the Bills in franchise history even surpassing the signing of Bryce Paup in 1995, who went on to become NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
GM Buddy Nix said heading into free agency that the club would be aggressive in the initial wave of bidding and backed it up hopping a private jet to Williams' native North Carolina with defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt to convince the top flight pass rusher to return with them to Buffalo just hours after the market opened.
"As soon as the season was over, (Pro Personnel Director)Tommy Gibbons and the pro department put all of the unrestricted free agents up on the board of we think this guy's going to hit the market and whose number one for us at this position," said Nix. "And the number one guy for us from day one was this guy (Mario Williams). So it's been a process that's been ongoing and obviously you don't do anything until the team that's got him doesn't sign him and then he hits free agency. But it's been a long process and it's been fun, especially since it turned out right."
After an evening with the Bills brass and DT Kyle Williams Tuesday, Williams spent all day Wednesday in Buffalo as he toured the facility at One Bills Drive, picked his fiancé up at the airport and both were escorted around the community to get a feel for the area.
Both sides continued talking contract terms late into Wednesday before it was decided that Williams and his fiancé would spend a second night in Buffalo.
Upon arriving at One Bills Drive Thursday morning, details on Williams' contract were finalized through the course of the afternoon with the free agent signing late in the day.
"I came into this with a completely open mind," Williams said. "I didn't want any distractions or anybody persuading me left or right. I talked with Kyle (Williams). I picked his brain and even (Defensive line coach) Giff (Smith) just talking to him. I told him this is football. If you tell me we are lining up in a 4-3 defense and go get the quarterback then we don't need to go over x's and o's. It was so comfortable after that point and just seeing this area and the facility, that was it. At that point I was ready."