All things being equal, most of you wouldn't turn down the Chicago Bears' potential addition of defensive end Mario Williams. The unrestricted availability of one of the NFL's top pass-rushers is attractive to just about any football fan, and the prospect of Williams teaming up with current Bears All-Pro Julius Peppers is frightening.
In reading through our hastily-arranged Have at It post, I saw only a few objections. Most of them related to the salary-cap limitations Williams would impose on improvement in other areas. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Monday that Williams is likely to command a contract that averages $15 million per season, and signing him would make it tougher to improve their thin group of receivers in an immediate way for 2012.
Recoil47 rejected a comparison with the New York Giants, who have won two Super Bowls in recent years in large part because of their dominating defensive lines. But in 2011, at least, the Giants were also stacked at receiver.
Wrote recoil47: "The comparison with the Giants hoarding defensive ends is a bad one. The Giants also have three wide Receivers who are better than the Bear's best wide receiver. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are far better than anything the Bears have, and Mario Manningham would sadly be a #1 on this team. So it's easy to try to make that comparison, but try to remember that the Giants were also stacked in areas the Bears ALSO need to fill."
Point taken. But the allure of creating an elite segment of a team seemed overwhelming for many of you. Family_man1 wrote that "it's always temping to fix weaknesses so you can feel more "comfortable" but added: "Far more likely to succeed in the NFL is to be dominant at a few phases of the game then above be average in everything. The Packers, Patriots, Saints, 49ers all did this with great success this season. The champion Giants have a terrible secondary, but a stellar line and it paid off. Therefore, I say seek greatness in the pass rush and find cheap solutions in the other phases. "
In that vein, many of you suggested that Williams could team with Peppers for a few years of double-barreled pass rush before providing a relatively seamless transition when Peppers' career with the Bears ends. Williams just turned 27 in January, and is five years younger than Peppers.
"The one advantage of signing Williams is you are set at DE for the next 8-10 years," wrote adambballn. Added Family_man1: "He's a building block no matter what you do."
My take: I've been squarely on the side that believes receiver/tight end should be the Bears' top priority in free agency. As my colleague Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com notes, the Bears have spent more than twice as many draft choices in rounds 1-3 on defensive linemen than receivers since coach Lovie Smith's arrival in 2004. You get what you pay for. But I also acknowledge it's rare when a pass-rusher of Williams' abilities becomes available in free agency, and we've seen how Peppers has impacted the Bears.
So I won't hammer the Bears for signing a player of Williams' stature. I'll just take a rain check, because signing Williams doesn't mean the Bears can't address receiver through the draft and later during free agency. They might not get the prize of the receiver market, Vincent Jackson, but Jackson won't be the only receiver available. Stay tuned.