One of the major topics of conversation surrounding the Buffalo Bills since the end of the season has been what to do with 10-year veteran defensive end Mario Williams.
Following a disappointing 2015 season that consisted of just five sacks, 19 tackles and plenty of complaints about Rex Ryan’s scheme, the Bills must soon decide what to do with the four-time pro bowler. More than likely, Williams will be cut due to his massive $19.9 million cap number in 2016.
Free agent Quinton Coples might be a likely replacement for the disgruntled Bills veteran.
While Williams may not have jelled in Ryan’s scheme this past season, the 6-foot-6 inch, 292-pound former No. 1 overall pick is still one of the best players in the league. Despite turning 31 last month, Williams undoubtedly has plenty left in the tank. Just his presence on the field alone is enough to make teams account for him and game plan accordingly.
If and when general manager Doug Whaley decides to cut ties with Williams, the Bills will be on the lookout for someone to fill his spot.
But, how will they do it?
Most NFL draft pundits believe Buffalo will use the 19th pick in the upcoming draft to fill that hole.
That could be the case, and it could be the right choice.
With a deep pool of talent at the defensive line position, particularly at the top of the class, Whaley might decide to pull the trigger on a player like Alabama’s Jarran Reed, Eastern Kentucky’s Noah Spence, Clemson’s Shaq Lawson or any of the other top linemen when the Bills are on the clock the night of April 28th.
However, what if the Bills don’t use their first-round pick on a defensive lineman?
Since taking over as general manager, Doug Whaley has preached about not being pigeonholed into selecting for a need, but rather selecting the best player available. With that said, the Bills will most likely be searching the free agent market for at least one player to help fill the void that is left if Williams is actually cut.
Enter Quinton Coples.
A former first-round pick with the New York Jets under Rex Ryan in 2012, Coples recently became available after being released by the Dolphins last week. Miami claimed him off waivers in late November after Jets’ head coach Todd Bowles decided he wasn’t a fit in his scheme.
Coples finished 2015 with just eight tackles and no sacks. All eight of those tackles came with the Jets as he failed to do much of anything in his final six games with the Dolphins.
As a result of his lack of production in those six games, Miami decided that Coples’ fifth-year option price tag of $7.8 million was too much to pay for the former North Carolina Tar Heel.
Just like that, the once rising star became a cap casualty one year after posting 35 tackles and a career-high 6.5 sacks in 2014 — his final season under Rex Ryan.
In addition to his 6.5 take-downs, Coples also racked up 11 quarterback hits and 21 hurries that season, which ranked 20th among all 3-4 outside linebackers that season as highlighted in Building The Herd Editor-in-Chief Rob Quinn’s breakdown of five “bargain bin” free agents posted on our site last week.
In his three seasons under Ryan, Coples totaled 108 tackles and 16.5 sacks.
Although those numbers may not jump off the screen at you, the 6-foot-6-inch, 290-pound defensive lineman is a proven fit in Rex Ryan’s scheme. With a sturdy frame and plenty of length (81-inch wingspan), Coples has the versatility to put his hand in the dirt and play across the line or stand up at outside linebacker (at times).
On top of his scheme versatility, the former Tar Heel will turn just 26 in June and is entering the prime of his career.
At the time of his release from the Jets in November, two teams put in a claim for Coples — the Dolphins and the Bills.
However, due to their record being worse than Buffalo’s, Miami was awarded the lineman, causing Rex Ryan to voice his desire for his former player, saying he was “a little upset with (Mike) Tannenbaum because, yeah, I wanted him.”
Now three months later, it’s not hard to believe that Rex probably still wants Coples. And, although the Bills are in a bit of cap trouble at the moment, Buffalo should find a way to get Rex’s guy on the roster.
If Whaley really wants to go BPA at No. 19 in April, then it might be best to give Rex his wish when free agency begins March 9.