Sources: Free agent DE Williams to visit Bills

JOHN WAWROW AP Sports Writer Published:

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- The Buffalo Bills have made no secret of their need to improve their pass rush, and are hoping prized free agent, defensive end Mario Williams, can be convinced to provide that push.

Williams accepted the Bills' invitation to meet with them in Buffalo on Tuesday, the first day of the NFL's free agency period, two people familiar with discussions have told The Associated Press. ESPN first reported Williams' scheduled visit with the Bills earlier in the day.

The Bills have also expressed interest in free agent receiver Robert Meachem, one of the people said, though it's initially unclear if the former New Orleans Saints' receiver has agreed to visit Buffalo.

The two people spoke on the condition of anonymity because talks are ongoing.

Behind quarterback Peyton Manning, Williams is regarded as one of the top free agents on the market, which 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.

Bills CEO Russ Brandon indicated earlier in the day that the team is willing to be aggressive, in an interview with Buffalo's WGR-Radio.

"We plan to be aggressive in free agency, and resources will not be an issue," Brandon said.

In six seasons, Williams became the Texans' top defensive player before being slowed by injuries in each of the past two years.

Listed at 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, Williams is a two-time Pro Bowl starter, who set a Texans' franchise-best 53 career sacks, including a team single-season best 14 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.

Despite Williams' absence last season, the Texans defense finished second in the NFL in fewest yards allowed, and set a team record with 44 sacks while helping Houston to its first playoff appearance. Before making a decision on whether to re-sign Williams this offseason, the Texans went ahead and re-signed running back Arian Foster to a five-year, $43.5 million contract.

Both Bills general manager Buddy Nix and coach Chan Gailey have emphasized this offseason that improving the team's pass rush is among the top offseason priorities. Buffalo (6-10) managed just 27 sacks last season, 10 of them coming in a 23-0 win over the Redskins on Oct. 30.

Earlier on Tuesday, Texans owner Bob McNair said he was still interested in re-signing Williams, but noted they would have to compete with other teams now that the player became a free agent.

___

AP Sports Writer Chris Duncan, in Houston, contributed to this report.