After questioning in December the logic of taking a pay cut from his $19.9 million cap number next season, defensive end Mario Williams has changed his tone on the issue.
On Wednesday, he told ESPN NFL Insider Josina Anderson that "it's bigger than just the numbers" and he would be open to listening to the Buffalo Bills about reducing his pay.
The Bills have the NFL's tightest salary-cap situation this offseason.
"I would love to have him back, but we'll see how realistic that is," coach Rex Ryan said Wednesday.
The Associated Press reported in December, citing a person with direct knowledge of discussions, that the Bills would release Williams this offseason. The Bills can save $12.9 million by releasing him.
"Yeah, I mean, it all depends on what is happening," Williams told Anderson. "My thing is this: Obviously, I've had big contracts, but once you get on a team and you get around the guys, it becomes family. The guys on defense, we laugh and talk about anything. We do a bunch of stuff together, and off the field, obviously. It's bigger than just numbers.
"But at the same time, as far as what you said about [a pay cut] being feasible, a [salary-cap] crunch is a crunch. Obviously there's two great players on the other side of the ball [pending free-agent left tackle Cordy Glenn and left guard Richie Incognito] that need to be back. Like you said, I'm not an accountant, either. I don't even know how you can go about making it where it makes at least some type of sense.
"That's not what I do, so that's why I don't even worry about it."
Williams, who is entering the fifth year of a six-year, $100 million deal he signed in 2012, has the second-highest cap number of any NFL defensive player next season. While the NFL has yet to determine its 2016 salary cap, ESPN Stats & Information projects the Bills to be about $1 million over their projected salary cap, making them the only team that must shed salary before the 2016 league year opens March 9.
Asked after the Bills' Dec. 20 loss to the Washington Redskins if he would be open to taking a pay cut, Williams said, "If this is the turnout of our defense, how does that even sound right?"
Williams, 31, recorded 5.0 sacks this season, the lowest output of his career since his 4.5-sack performance as a rookie in 2006. Beginning in October, Williams expressed frustration to reporters about his role in Ryan's scheme, which sometimes had him dropping into coverage instead of rushing the quarterback.
Williams told Anderson that he would like to meet halfway with coaches on the issue.
"We didn't have -- at least I feel like for myself -- we didn't have common ground as far as give-and-take on the scheme," he said. "I have no problem listening, but like I said, at least have us doing half of the snaps of what we do best, and that's us going [on attack] and the guys in the [secondary] can cover.
"Last year I feel like we were way more blitz-happy than anything. I'm just saying we can meet halfway, so the guys who get after the quarterback can get more opportunities to do that, and set up your fill with the players inside you and make it happen like that. That's all I ask. I'm not saying throw the scheme out. That's what I was saying before. I never said anything was wrong with the scheme."