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Mario Williams has worst DE contract in NFL

NFL: Houston Texans at Buffalo Bills Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, Pro Football Focus listed Miami Dolphins tight end Jordan Cameron as one of the worst tight end contracts in the NFL. Today, they double down on beating up the Dolphins for some of their contracts by listing defensive end Mario Williams as the worst defensive end contract in the league.

To explain why they list Williams so poorly, they write:

Years remaining: Two

Average remaining cap hit (per season): $8.5 million

Year he can realistically be cut: 2017

The Dolphins could have retained Olivier Vernon on the franchise tag for only a little more than they gave Mario Williams over two years. Williams suffered a dreadful season in Buffalo, recording the worst pass-rush grade of all edge defenders. He managed only 37 combined pressures in 507 rushes, ranking fourth from bottom in pass-rushing productivity. Williams’ 42.5 pass-rush grade helped him to 93rd in our overall edge defender rankings.

The Bills’ wisely noticed the decline in Williams’ performance, cutting ties with him at the right time. The fact Miami decided to hand him $17 million over two years is baffling. Their bookend pass-rushers consist of a 34-year-old coming off an ACL surgery and a 31-year-old coming off the worst season of his career. In the likely case of another disappointing season, Williams’ will cost $2 million in dead money to cut. It would be a surprise if he played well enough to make the $10.5 million he’s set to earn.

The Dolphins are expecting to see Williams rebound after a lack-luster 2015 campaign, in no small part because he will now be playing defensive end instead of outside linebacker, where the Buffalo Bills used him last season. Williams recorded just five sacks and 19 tackles last year, but was coming off two Pro Bowl seasons, including a 2014 First-Team All-Pro selection, in which he recorded 13.0 sacks and 14.5 sacks in 2013 and 2014 respectively. It is not likely that Williams simply hit a wall that drastic, especially taking into account the role he was asked to play in Rex Ryan’s first year in Buffalo.

PFF also argues that Williams’ $17 million over two years is about the same amount of money that the team would have spent on Olivier Vernon’s franchise tag. Of course, Vernon’s tag would have only been for one season, and would have cost the Dolphins $15.7 million or $9.2 million more than Williams’ $6.5 million this year. Even if you add in the $2 million that it would cost Miami to cut Williams before the 2017 season, Williams would cost Miami a total of $8.5 million compared to just one year of Vernon at $15.7 million, plus whatever cost it would be to either re-tag him or sign him to a new contract for the 2017 season.

Even on his long-term contract signed with the New York Giants this offseason, Vernon will have a salary cap number far exceeding Williams’ salary cap number this year, and exceeding next year’s $10.5 million cap number. Vernon’s lowest cap hit is this year, at $13 million. He then goes to $16 million, $17 million, and $19.5 million each of the last two years.

That for a player who tallied 7.5 sacks last year. In other words, he recorded 2.5 sacks more than Williams did, as Williams had “a dreadful season in Buffalo.”

Is Williams a risk? Absolutely, because he could be more like the player the Bills had last year than the double-digit sack artist from previous seasons. Is he worth a one-year rental at $8.5 million compared to the $15.7 million one-year rental that Vernon could have been? Probably.