Giants to meet with ex-Panthers DE Charles Johnson, interested in ex-Bills DE Mario Williams

The start of free agency is still a few days away, but the Giants’ chase for pass rushing help has already begun. Veteran defensive end Charles Johnson, who was cut by the Carolina Panthers on Thursday, will make a free-agent visit to the Giants on Sunday, two NFL sources confirmed. And it’s possible veteran defensive end Mario Williams won’t be far behind, since a league source told the Daily News the Giants have expressed an interest in meeting with him too. Both players are coming off down seasons, but still could be among the best pass rushers on a thin market. Johnson, 29, had just one sack in nine games last season, while missing nearly half the season with a severely strained hamstring. He did have 52½ sacks in his previous five seasons, though, and the Panthers reportedly offered him a paycut before releasing him. Meanwhile the 31-year-old Williams was released by the Buffalo Bills last Tuesday after a mostly unproductive five-sack season. He appeared miscast in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 defense, though, and some scouts think a return to a 4-3 scheme – like the Giants play – could make him look more like the player who had double-digit sacks in each of his three previous season. FOLLOW THE DAILY NEWS SPORTS ON FACEBOOK. "LIKE" US HERE. Williams was in Miami visiting with the Dolphins on Saturday, according to the NFL Network. And though it’s unclear if he had any plans to visit the Giants, he told ESPN he’d “like to visit 4-5 (teams) quickly, if possible.” If he signed with Miami, though, that could also help the Giants because it would make it much easier for them — or any other team – to pry defensive end Olivier Vernon away. The Dolphins placed the “transition tag” on Vernon, their 25-year-old defensive end, guaranteeing him a one-year deal for $12.7 million. Vernon can still solicit offers in free agency and the Dolphins would have the right to Continue Reading

High-priced market for pass-rushers, like Olivier Vernon and Mario Williams, could limit options for Giants

The market for pass-rushing help during free agency might be even more expensive than the Giants anticipated. They could end up spending nearly half of their salary cap room on defensive ends if they try to sign more than one top player in this overinflated market. According to multiple NFL sources, the initial asking prices on Monday — the first day teams were allowed to talk to free agents from other teams — were sky-high. Even the second-tier ends seem to be looking for $10 million per year. That won't necessarily stop the Giants from shopping, of course, but it could limit their options given how many needs they are expecting to fill. On Monday they expressed some level of interest in defensive end Olivier Vernon, arguably the top available defensive end who was given the "transition tag" by Miami. But word is it might take a front-loaded contract worth at least $15 million per season to lure him away. And according to one report, at least five teams were interested in him, including the Raiders and Jaguars — two of the three teams with more cap space than the Giants. GIANTS FREE AGENCY ANSWERS: PLAYERS BIG BLUE WILL GO AFTER Meanwhile, defensive end Mario Williams, whom the Giants are interested in bringing in for a visit, was reportedly telling teams it would take $10 million per season to sign him. That was also what NFL sources said Jason Pierre-Paul was looking for, and he's already drawn interest from Arizona. And the Giants' other free-agent defensive end, Robert Ayers, was also reportedly looking for something in the $10 million range — though one source familiar with his plans said he likely would sign for much less. Considering Williams is 31 and Ayers is 30, those numbers are astounding. They're also indicative of what looks like a seller's market — far more teams looking for pass-rushing help than there are top pass rushers on the market. The Giants, however, are also looking at several ends who could Continue Reading

Bills legend Jim Kelly gets help from current star Mario Williams in digging out from massive Buffalo blizzard

Cleaning up from the massive Buffalo blizzard isn't a one man job. Bills legend Jim Kelly posted a short video on Instagram Wednesday showing current Bills star Mario Williams helping him dig out from one of the biggest blasts of snow ever to hit Western New York. "I think the snow is getting to him!" the Hall of Fame QB, who was recently declared cancer-free, wrote in his social media post. "LOL ... Possibly a bit of cabin fever. Not sure exactly! Just trying to dig out! Thank you David Kern and @bbwolf94 YOU DA MAN!!!" What else is the three-time Pro Bowler to do as the team was unable to practice Wednesday as a regional travel ban kept the players close to home. The Bills' home, Ralph Wilson Stadium, was filled with an estimated 220,000 tons of snow and the team was offering $10 per hour and free tickets for fans that showed up to help dig out. Bad news for Kelly, Williams and all the other residents of the area as snow continues to fall. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Jets RT Austin Howard has been super vs. Bills’ Mario Williams

In his first start as the Jets’ right tackle, a relatively unknown Austin Howard made defensive end Mario Williams a nonfactor in Williams’ first game as a Bill after signing a six-year deal worth up to $100 million. Williams had just one tackle in that 20-point Jets win in the 2012 season opener. Howard also held Williams without a sack in the second matchup last year and in this season’s Week 3 Jets victory. “He’s done a phenomenal job against arguably one of the best players in the league at his position in Williams,” Rex Ryan said of Howard. “He did it last year, too. Everybody thought (Williams) was getting doubled. No, he was getting doubled by (Howard’s) left arm and right arm. He’s just a big, athletic guy and he matches well against almost anybody. He’s another young player that’s ascending.” After that first game in 2012, Williams complained that the replacement officials had failed to call hands-to-the-face penalties against Howard. Ryan defended Howard then, and did so again Friday. “Mario Williams is a great player, and to be shut out on the scoresheet or whatever it was, that’s one way you talk about it,” Ryan said. Williams has 11 sacks this season, but only one since Oct. 20. HEADING FOR HOLMES On Wednesday, Holmes attempted to pump the brakes on talk of his return, but Ryan said all along he thought Holmes would play. How much he’ll play is uncertain. “Will (Holmes) be on a pitch count? I think we’ll be smart about that,” Ryan said Friday. “We’re not gonna put him out there for 80 snaps. But does he look good to me? He absolutely looks good to me.” SAPP ‘SWAPPED’ FOR REED Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Buffalo Bills at NY Jets: Mark Sanchez needs to be sharp with DE Mario Williams coming after him on Sunday

PLAYBOOK: Bills at Jets, at METLIFE STADIUM WHEN: 1 p.m. LINE: Jets by 3 TV: Ch. 2 (Marv Albert, Rich Gannon) RADIO: WEPN 1050 AM, 98.7 FM (Bob Wischusen, Marty Lyons). Nationwide on Compass Media (Chris Carrino, Brian Baldinger). FORECAST: Partly sunny, low 70s, 7-8 MPH winds KEY MATCHUP RT Austin Howard vs. DE Mario Williams Howard's first NFL start comes against one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. Williams was the big ticket free agent of the offseason, and along with Mark Anderson, the ex-Texan turns Buffalo's once-moribund pass rush into a scary proposition. The Jets have been manhandling the Bills up front lately so this is one matchup that can turn the series. Mark Sanchez will have to be sharp. INJURY REPORT Jets TE Dustin Keller should play despite a sore hamstring. Ditto on SS LaRon Landry (knee). S Eric Smith (hip) and OT Dennis Landolt (knee) are out. QB/WR Brad Smith, the ex-Jet, made encouraging progress from a groin injury and should be ready to give the Bills' Wildcat version a lift. WR Stevie Johnson has had some hamstring tightness but will play. The Bills' offensive line is a little banged up. RG Kraig Urbik has a sore back while RT Erik Pears is coming off groin surgery. And C Eric Wood is coming off a torn ACL. SCOUT SAYS "(Ryan) Fitzpatrick has to be better this year if the Bills are to do anything. He tends to lock onto the first guy and the Jets will try to take that away with a lot of press and bump coverage. I've always liked (Bills coach) Chan Gailey as a play caller and he's going to have to mix it up against the Jets. (The Jets) are very good against the run and that will be their first priority. The Jets have kept their Wildcat under wraps but I'm not sure how many surprises Tony Sparano can spring. With (Tim) Tebow (four INTs, three sacks in a loss to the Bills last year), it's always about when the play breaks down, not how the play is drawn up and with the pressure the Bills can bring up Continue Reading

Rex Ryan praises right tackle Austin Howard for keeping Buffalo Bills’ Mario Williams away from NY Jets QB Mark Sanchez

Right tackle Austin Howard fared well against Bills pass rusher Mario Williams in one-on-one battles Sunday, and Rex Ryan supported his offensive lineman when Williams alleged Howard’s hands-to-the-face tactics were illegal. “I’ll say this: Mario Williams is a great football player,” Ryan said Monday. “There’s no question, he’s a tremendous player. But I disagree with him on this.” Williams, the Bills’ big free-agent signing , criticized the replacement referees for not calling hands-to-the-face infractions. Williams, who was matched with Howard on about half of the snaps, did not record a sack or quarterback pressure in the Jets’ 48-28 victory. “All I know is there were no flags thrown,” Howard said. “The game’s moving so fast, you can’t purposely put your hands anywhere.” Ryan insisted that the focus should be on his lineman’s disciplined approach. “I thought Austin Howard had a great game,” Ryan said. “There’s no two ways about it: He had an outstanding game. He gave up that one hit against Mario Williams; that was impressive.” TOP OF THE HILL It wasn’t just the Buffalo secondary that Jets wideout Stephen Hill was fighting. Hill, the team’s 2012 second-round draft pick from Georgia Tech, battled sickness and was throwing up on the sidelines when not scoring his first two touchdowns in his first regular-season game . “He showed that toughness, which you knew he had,” Ryan said. Ryan maintained that Hill has displayed steady progress in the last five months and complimented position coach Sanjay Lal for having him ready for the opener. Ryan recalled a conversation from draft day when someone in the war room asked Lal, “If we draft this player, will he be ready for Buffalo?” Lal said he would. After the win, Lal reminded GM Mike Tannenbaum about the promise. Continue Reading

Houston Texans cruise against Buffalo Bills, former No 1. draft pick Mario Williams to improve to AFC-best record 7-1

HOUSTON — The Houston Texans are doing quite well without Mario Williams. Matt Schaub threw two touchdown passes, Arian Foster ran for 111 yards against Buffalo's NFL-worst rush defense and the Texans beat the Bills and their former No. 1 draft pick 21-9 on Sunday. Andre Johnson caught eight passes for 118 yards and Foster scored for the fifth straight game for the Texans (7-1), who clamped down on defense in the second half to put the game away. Williams had a sack and five tackles in his first game at Reliant Stadium since signing a six-year, $100 million contract with the Bills (3-5) in the offseason. The Texans made Williams the top overall pick in the 2006 draft and he's still Houston's career sacks leader (53). But Williams became an unrestricted free agent after last season, and the Texans opted against breaking the bank to keep him and let him go. Williams said this week he was upset that Houston general manager Rick Smith never even made him an offer to stay. After the game, though, several Texans and coach Gary Kubiak embraced Williams at midfield. Schaub won for the 10th time in 11 starts. He completed 19 of 27 passes for 268 yards. The Texans looked much better in the second half, outscoring Buffalo 14-3 and holding the Bills to 119 yards after halftime. Williams got his first dose of boos when he tackled Foster on Houston's opening drive. Schaub started Houston's third series with an 18-yard pass to Kevin Walter. Foster gained 14 yards before Schaub executed a smooth play-action fake, rolled to his left and hit Owen Daniels in stride for a 39-yard touchdown. The Bills mustered only 35 yards and one first down in the opening quarter. C.J. Spiller gained 28 yards on a screen pass to the Houston 19, but Buffalo came away empty after Connor Barwin sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick and Rian Lindell shanked a 37-yard field goal attempt. Foster crossed midfield with a 21-yard run early in the second quarter and Houston was on the move Continue Reading

Mario Williams’ ex-fiancee’s lawyer releases text messages showing Buffalo Bills DE was despondent over breakup

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Bills defensive end Mario Williams isn’t any closer to getting back his $785,000 diamond engagement ring from his former fiancee, Erin Marzouki. And Marzouki’s attorney, Tony Buzbee, upped the ante on Friday by releasing a series of text messages he said were between his client and Williams that indicate how despondent the player was over their breakup in November. Without going into detail, Buzbee said in an email that a court-encouraged effort to mediate the dispute was unsuccessful in Houston earlier in the day. Accusing Williams of experiencing “dramatic mood swings” throughout the engagement, Buzbee also released an exchange of texts between the two he said he copied off his client’s phone. It’s a conversation dated as occurring between 4:51 and 8:26 p.m. Central Time on Nov. 11, and includes a break between 5:03-8:02 p.m. During the exchange, Williams wrote: “No money in the world should leave me with suicidal thoughts.” Williams also wrote that he took three hydrocodones that morning — that was the day of Buffalo’s game at New England. And he planned to take two more on the plane home. Hydrocodone is classified as a narcotic, and prescribed to relieve moderate to severe pain. Marzouki responded by urging Williams to get help. “Why don’t you talk to someone? Clearly you’re not happy & if your takin pills that’s bad,” she wrote. Williams apologized, and then wrote he agreed with her that he’s furious and should not have texted her in “this state.” Williams added: “I need to go back n my shell. There’s no telling what Ill do to myself at this point. I’m sry Ill disappear from now on.” Messages left with Williams and his attorney, Monica Orlando, weren’t returned. Williams did post several notes on his Twitter account Friday night — among his first since July. Though they Continue Reading

Buffalo Bills sign free-agent DE Mario Williams to 6-year deal worth up to $100 million

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Free agent defensive end Mario Williams says he was so nervous when it came time to sign his contract with the Buffalo Bills, he almost forgot his name. No one in Buffalo will soon forget. Williams was introduced at a news conference Thursday after signing a contract touted as the richest ever given to an NFL defensive player — a deal worth up to $100 million with $50 million guaranteed, according to his agent, Ben Dogra. The deal was agreed to Thursday afternoon after two days of talks. Williams had been in Buffalo since the NFL’s free agency period opened Tuesday, having been flown in from his home in North Carolina. The start of Williams’ news conference was delayed a little more than two hours. Without being specific, team spokesman Scott Berchtold apologized for the delay, saying there were details still being worked out. Selected first overall in the 2006 draft by Houston, Williams had a franchise-best 53 sacks in six seasons with the Texans. Listed at 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, the pass rusher is a two-time Pro Bowl starter, and set a single-season team record with 14 sacks in 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. After quarterback Peyton Manning, Williams has been regarded as one of the top free agents available this offseason. The Bills regarded improving their pass rush as their top offseason priority after managing just 29 sacks last season — 10 of them coming in one game. Williams spent Tuesday night dining with team management and coaches at a downtown restaurant. After taking a physical and touring the Bills facility on Wednesday morning, Williams was joined by his fiancée, who traveled to Buffalo and was provided a tour of the region. The Williams signing comes at a hefty price for a small-market team that has hit hard times Continue Reading

Mario Williams, Steve Slaton lead Texans past Jags 30-17

HOUSTON - Steve Slaton wanted the ball more. So the rookie marched up to Houston coach Gary Kubiak at halftime, grabbed him by the shirt and told him so. Kubiak listened and Slaton responded with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to lead the Texans to a 30-17 win over slumping Jacksonville in their Monday Night Football debut. “I wanted to run the ball,” Slaton said. “I wanted to let him know that if he needed someone to count on, it was me.” Mario Williams had a season-high three sacks and forced a fumble, Andre Johnson added a TD reception and Kris Brown kicked three field goals in the win, a highlight in Houston’s disappointing season so far. The top pick in the 2006 draft, Williams brought down quarterback David Garrard in the second, third and fourth quarters. He forced a fumble by Garrard on his last sack and Houston recovered on the 7. “Our defense was excellent throughout the game,” Kubiak said. “Our defense played extremely well, gave us tremendous opportunities.” Williams’ sack set up Slaton’s 7-yard score that made it 23-3 with 4:35 to go. Slaton tacked on a 40-yard TD run and finished with 130 yards rushing on 21 carries. He also had two catches for 52 yards in front of a franchise-record crowd of 70,809. “Nothing’s too big for him,” Kubiak said. “To watch him get stronger at the end of the game is impressive.” Slaton, Williams and the rest of the Texans were clad in their “Battle Red” uniforms for their first Monday night game. The city of Houston hosted a Monday nighter for the first time since Nov. 21, 1994, when the New York Giants beat the Oilers 13-10 at the Astrodome. Sage Rosenfels, making his fourth consecutive start in place of injured Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, threw for 200 yards and a score with an interception. Williams, who has 11 sacks this season, thrived once again in the prime-time spotlight. In his Continue Reading