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CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Mario Williams + Buffalo = Why NFL best of the big leagues


By choosing small-market Buffalo, Mario Williams demonstrates how the NFL in superior. (Getty Images)  
By choosing small-market Buffalo, Mario Williams demonstrates how the NFL in superior. (Getty Images)  

Mario Williams is going to Buffalo -- or really Orchard Park, N.Y. -- and to borrow from a song from the departed Rick James, one of Buffalo's finest: You're probably Super Freaked.

It just doesn't seem right. The NFL's top prize is going to one of its smallest markets, an area known more for snow-inch measurements and hot wings than being a free-agent destination.

What's it mean?

Two things: Williams took the money, and the NFL way works.

Start with the money. He got six years and $100 million, with $50 million guaranteed, making him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL. That's what happens when a pass-rusher in his prime hits the open market, a rarity and only possible because of the cap circumstances in Houston.

In league where pass-rushers are more valuable than ever -- in large part because of the move to the wide-open passing game -- Williams was a hot commodity. You have to give it the Bills. They brought him in the first day and never let him leave.

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It's good for the league because, well, it's Buffalo. I got into a fun Twitter spat with some Bills fans Wednesday night when I made a crack about the city. But to be honest, I like the Buffalo area.

It's one of those no-hassle cities, kind of like where I live in Jacksonville, but without the beach and weather. Sure, it's not Miami with South Beach or New York with the nightlife and the media and the celebrity watch, but it seems downright comfortable.

Even so, I imagine it was a tough sell for Williams. Then again, there were 100 million reasons to make it easier.

I've always believed a player would sign with the Moscow Comrades or the North Pole Northmen if the money were right, although, in this case, the North Pole might be a tad warmer than Buffalo (just kidding, Bills fans).

This proves it. It also shows why the NFL is the best of the leagues going. This isn't Major League Baseball, where financial inequities favor the big-market teams and leave cities like Pittsburgh wondering if they will ever be able to compete.

This isn't the NBA, where stars can have dog-and-pony shows on national TV to join forces with other stars to avoid the burden of doing it on their own, or they can force teams to trade them as they hold them hostage. Or where a certain 6-11 center in a small-market makes Brett Favre look decisive when talking about his future. Talk about Mickey Mouse.

Money is shared in the NFL. They call that league-think. It's why it works. The television contracts are split equally, which is why it's possible. It's true the big-market teams can generate more local revenue, and they do, but the big-money television deals make it possible for teams like the Bills, the Jaguars, the Bengals and others in small markets to compete.

If someone had said that Williams was going to the Bills before free agency, you would have called them crazier than Rick James was in his wild, party days. Now it's happened.

This is Reggie White going to the Packers.

This is huge for the Bills. It's huge for the small-market teams.

The Bills are going to a 4-3 defense, so they had to get a defensive end. The last time they had one who was big-time, his name was Bruce Smith. With Williams, they have that again. I'm not saying he's in Smith's league -- few are -- but he will team with defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to give the Bills two young players on a line to build around.

Williams has 53 sacks in six seasons, but he has missed part of two, including much of 2011, with a torn pectoral muscle. He had a career-best 14 sacks in 2007. That's the type of production the Bills have to get from him. If he isn't in double-digit sacks each season during his stay, the deal will be a failure.

I don't think it will be.

The Texans are now a 3-4 team, and I think Williams is more of a 4-3 end. It's good for Williams to be back playing with his hand on the ground.

More than that, his signing is good for the NFL. It shows the NFL works. It shows why the league has it over MLB and the NBA. But more important than anything, it shows Williams followed another Rick James anthem: He's rich, bitch.

To borrow a song title form one of Buffalo's famous residents, Rick James, Williams said, "Give it to me, baby."

The Bills did.

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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