It was a move that proved to be anything but surprising. Faced with a restrictive salary cap situation and in need of additional room to re-sign some of their key free agents, the Bills parted ways with veteran Mario Williams releasing the defensive end Tuesday. Buffalo also released veteran RB Boobie Dixon and G Kraig Urbik.
"We want to thank Boobie, Kraig and Mario for everything they did during their years with our franchise," said GM Doug Whaley in a team statement. "Each of them contributed to our team in a unique way. Days like this are never easy and this is a part of the business that is difficult on everyone. We will now focus our attention on moving forward as we continue to prepare for free agency, the upcoming Draft and the 2016 season."
Williams, 31, had a 2016 cap charge of almost $20 million which put the club in a difficult position when it came to retaining pending free agents like OT Cordy Glenn, G Richie Incognito and LB Nigel Bradham. Buffalo franchised Glenn Tuesday. Williams' contract also likely complicated long term plans for players like CB Stephon Gilmore and QB Tyrod Taylor.
Bills GM Doug Whaley even admitted that Williams cap charge was something that would need to addressed calling Williams cap figure "prohibitive." He said the front office would make a decision that would be best for the Buffalo Bills.
Releasing Williams gives Buffalo a net cap savings of almost $13 million, but also leaves a hole at left defensive end.
When Williams was signed as a free agent in 2012 it was the largest contract ever for a Bills player. The former number one pick in the 2005 draft helped to make Buffalo's defensive line one of the most productive in the league when it came to sacks as the Bills posted the highest total in the NFL from 2013-2014 with 111. Williams had 27.5 sacks over those two seasons earning a pair of Pro Bowl nods, but his production fell off sharply in 2015.
His five sacks last season was the second-lowest single-season total of his career. He cited the defensive scheme, but there were questions about his willingness to buy into Buffalo's new defensive system under new head coach Rex Ryan.
Dixon, Urbik releasedBuffalo also released RB Boobie Dixon and OL Kraig Urbik. Dixon signed with the Bills as a free agent in 2014 to serve as a core special teamer and provide depth at running back. He was instrumental in helping Buffalo rank second in special teams in 2014, but was overshadowed in the offensive backfield in 2015 by the emergence of late season pickup Mike Gillislee.
Urbik enjoyed six seasons with the Bills after Buffalo claimed him off waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010. He appeared in 84 games for Buffalo making 57 starts. The veteran guard started 20 of 36 games in 2013 and 2015 when the Bills ranked second and first in the league in rushing respectively.