ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — It’s going to be game over for Super Mario in Buffalo after the Bills play their season finale on Sunday.
High-priced defensive end Mario Williams will be cut by the Bills this off-season, a person with direct knowledge of discussions told The Associated Press on Thursday. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team does not publicly discuss its player personnel plans.
No timetable was provided as to when Williams will be cut, but the person said the team’s top pass-rushing threat’s final game will be Buffalo’s home game against the New York Jets (10-5). The Bills (7-8) have already been eliminated from the playoffs.
Walking off the field following practice, Williams told The AP he hasn’t been informed by the Bills about his future.
"I can’t say anything but if it is (my last game), I’ll talk to you on Tuesday," Williams said.
Bills players are usually available on Tuesday during the season. Next week, however, the Bills are scheduled to hold their final media availability on Monday, when players clean out their lockers.
Coach Rex Ryan said he’s not aware of where the story is coming from, and said he’s solely focused on playing the Jets.
"I’m not going to get into speculating on this player’s going to be here, not here, how they fit in or whatever," Ryan said. "All those type of discussions will be better served after this game."
Williams has become expendable because his contract is deemed to be too expensive, and also because he has struggled to make the transition to the defensive system introduced this year by Ryan. Williams has two years left on the six-year, $100 million contract he signed in free agency in 2012.
He is set make an $11.5 million base salary next year. By cutting Williams, the Bills will save more than $12 million under the NFL’s salary cap.
The savings are important for a team that needs to free up room to re-sign and add players in free agency this off-season.
At the same time, the person said veteran defensive tackle Kyle Williams’ job is safe, so long as he recovers from a season-ending left knee injury he sustained in a 34-21 loss to Cincinnati on Oct. 18.
Kyle Williams is a 10-year veteran and a four-time Pro Bowl selection. The Bills value him because of his play and because of the leadership role he provides.
His future in Buffalo had been in question only because of his salary. He is scheduled to make $12.3 million in base salary over the final two years of his contract.
The Bills intend to revamp their defensive personnel after the unit underperformed this season.
Buffalo ranks 20th in yards allowed and 31st in sacks. That’s a major disappointment for a defence that returned mostly intact a year after finishing fourth in yards allowed and had an NFL-leading 54 sacks.
Mario Williams’ drop-off has been significant. He has just four sacks in 14 games this season.
The NFL’s top pick in the 2006 emerged as one of the league’s top pass-rushing threats during his first six seasons in Houston. Williams has 96 career sacks, and combined for 38 in his first three seasons in Buffalo, including a career-best 14 1/2 last year.
Williams has also publicly voiced his frustrations over how he’s being used in Ryan’s system. He has questioned why he’s been asked to drop back into coverage on occasion, something Williams said he’s never done in his previous 10 seasons.
Last week, Williams included himself when saying he wasn’t sure whether the Bills personnel match what Ryan wants to do.
Williams stressed he wasn’t criticizing Ryan, but just simply stating a fact.
Last week, Ryan defended Williams’ performance and said the player’s complaints were made out of frustration.
On Wednesday, speaking on a conference call, Ryan declined to reveal who he was referring to in saying players haven’t bought in to his scheme.
Ryan added he’s been bothered by criticism coming from his players.
"Yeah it bothers me, no doubt about it," Ryan said. "Now, I haven’t said anything public until now about it. But sure, that would bother me. Doesn’t mean I’m going to change who I am or how I go about my business, I can promise you that."
On Thursday, Ryan declined to specify once again who he was referring to.
Williams signed with the Bills in March 2012 after spending three days in town negotiating what at that time became the most expensive contract signed by a defensive player.
Williams is no longer the Bills’ most high-priced player after the team signed defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to a six-year, $108 million contract in September.