IRVING, Texas -Let's say you were to offer Houston Texans pass-rusher Mario Williams the exact same contract you gave DeMarcus Ware in 2009. Seven years, $79 million, with $40 million guaranteed.
Now, let's say he accepts.
You'd have to switch to a 4-3 defense. Williams has shown he can play in a 3-4, but in Wade Phillips' scheme last year he was playing the exact spot Ware plays in Dallas, and Williams isn't a better pass-rusher than Ware. You wouldn't want either of them dropping into coverage as often as Anthony Spencer does in the current scheme - Ware's too good in the rush, and Williams is too big to be covering people in space.
So, in this new 4-3 defense, which, by the way, Jason Garrett left open as a possibility when speaking to the media in January, Ware is your weak side defensive end, and Williams plays on the strong side, where his size and strength could help against the run. At different times on this site, we've talked about how moving from the 3-4 is tricky because it's the system in which Ware has been so successful, but come on, Ware would be good in a 1-5, a 3-8 or 7-2-2.
That bumps Jay Ratliff out of the nose tackle spot. Make him the defensive tackle on Williams' side. In the first round, draft a mother of a defensive tackle to stick between him and Ware - let's say Dontari Poe, the freak from Memphis, because why not?
Sean Lee is a classic 4-3 inside linebacker, maybe even a better fit there than he is in the 3-4. Play Bruce Carter as the weak side 'backer, and Victor Butler on the strong side. Go ahead and draft another outside linebacker in, like, Round 5.
Pick a cornerback in the second round. If you get to camp and he's not better than Orlando Scandrick, fine, you need three of them anyway, so he'll play on nickel downs, when you can pull Butler, or slide Butler down to end, pushing Williams inside next to Ratliff, or Poe, whoever is fresher.
If you've given Williams the same contract as Ware, he'll eat up about $10 million of the $12 million or so you have to spend.
So, you release Kenyon Coleman and save $1.9 million. Release David Buehler and you save another $1.3 million.
Now you've got about $5 million to spend. Use that on a safety or a guard, or a safety and a guard, or Laurent Robinson, if you've just got to have him back.
Move some more money around in Doug Free's contract, or Scandrick's, or Jason Witten's or Jay Ratliff's. Sign this veteran backup quarterback.
Round 3 and Round 4, get another guard and another safety. Get the best player available in Round 6 and Round 7, and with the extra conditional pick or two that you'll pick up.
Next, release Terence Newman on June 1, save $4 million and use that to sign your rookie class.
How does all this sound to you?