Meadville Tribune

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March 14, 2012

DE Williams still undecided on signing with Bills

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The wait for prized free agent defensive end Mario Williams to decide whether to sign with the Buffalo Bills will last yet another day.

The Bills announced Wednesday night that Williams has left their facility and will return Thursday morning.

Williams’ agent, Ben Dogra, in a text to The Associated Press, wrote: “We are still continuing to talk.”

That means the former Houston Texans star pass rusher will spend a second night in Buffalo awaiting to determine his future. The Bills flew him into town by private jet from his home in North Carolina shortly after the NFL’s free-agency period opened on Tuesday.

With talks ongoing, it was a busy day for Williams a day after he had dinner with Bills management and coaches at a downtown Buffalo restaurant. After taking a physical and touring the Bills facility Wednesday morning, Williams traveled to the Buffalo International Airport to pick up his fiance.

Williams told Buffalo’s WIVB-TV, “We’ll see,” when asked if his fianci’s arrival was considered a good sign regarding his negotiations with the Bills.

The Bills said Williams and his fiance, who was not identified, were given a tour of the region.

Behind quarterback Peyton Manning, Williams is regarded as one of the top free agents available since the market opened on Tuesday. And that means the Bills would have to pay a hefty price if they intend to land the player selected first overall in the 2006 draft by Houston.

The Bills have identified improving their pass rush as a top offseason priority after managing just 29 — including 10 in one game — last season.

Listed at 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, Williams is a two-time Pro Bowl starter, who had a franchise-best 53 career sacks, including a team single-season best 14 (2007). Williams was limited to playing just five games last season as a result of a torn chest muscle. He also missed three games in 2010 after having surgery to repair a sports hernia.

Aside from courting Williams, the Bills also brought in free agent receiver Robert Meachem on Tuesday. Meachem, who spent his first six seasons in New Orleans, turned down the Bills by instead signing with the San Diego Chargers.

The Bills’ attempts to sign Williams has captured the imaginations of the team’s fans.

With speculation that Williams was attending the Buffalo Sabres’ NHL game against Colorado on Wednesday, several “We want Mario!” chants went up in the arena.

Sabres spokesman Michael Gilbert said he did not know if Williams was in attendance.

A business not far from Ralph Wilson Stadium had “Welcome Mario Williams” flashing on its electronic sign. A couple of fans dressed in Bills jerseys waited to greet Williams after his dinner on Tuesday. And several fans have showed up in the parking lot of the Bills facility hoping to get a glimpse of Williams the past two days.

Even Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly’s wife, Jill, got into recruiting Williams via her Twitter account on Wednesday. Noting the player’s passion for hunting, Jill Kelly noted Mario Williams in tweeting that there were currently nine deer in her backyard in suburban Buffalo.

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