Value Added: Arian Foster vs. Mario Williams

Categories: Football, Sports

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The Texans are facing an offseason unlike any other they have ever seen in their ten years of existence. For the first time ever, General Manager Rick Smith, Coach Gary Kubiak and owner Bob McNair have to figure out how to keep together a very good lineup of players and, gasp, even make it better. For them, it's an unprecedented and a welcome change from the years of filling holes. There will still be a few holes to fill, but not on the order of magnitude we've seen over the last ten years.

They will need to seek a better second cornerback in free agency to shore up their secondary and get Kareem Jackson out of a role for which he is clearly outmatched. They will need to seek a second wide receiver, probably in the draft, to pair with a still talented but aging Andre Johnson. They will need some offensive line, defensive line and linebacker depth. They will also need to re-sign Chris Meyers and Mike Brisiel, who anchored the best offensive line in football. When Brisiel went down with an injury late in the year, so did the rushing yards.

But those are all manageable problems with reasonable solutions. The real issue, and the one fans are talking about, is if the Texans can sign both Arian Foster and Mario Williams and, more to the point, if they should. Here's a side-by-side comparison to help us figure it out.

Injuries

Williams has suffered through a handful of injuries that have impeded his ability over the last few years, including an oddball torn pectoral muscle this season. Foster struggled with hamstring injuries early this year, but has been otherwise durable

Winner: Foster


Value at Position

Setting aside health for the moment, both of these guys are impact players. Both are pro bowlers. Williams has up and down moments, but he commands a double team and still gets double-digit sacks. Foster not only churns out yards on the ground, but has great hands and is a double threat out of the backfield.

Winner: Push


Impact on the Game

As much as the sacks and pressures and double teams mean to a team's defense, it is hard to compare to a guy who will have the ball in his hand 20-plus times per game.

Winner: Foster


Attitude and Intangibles

This is tricky. In a recent interview with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, he said that Williams had stayed with the team after he was hurt, working with players and even giving pep talks to them. Phillips said this was something you almost never see when a player is lost for the season with an injury. Foster is enigmatic with his bow tie, dry wit and namaste bows in the end zone, but he's a character that people love. Both have had what appeared to be some motivational issues in the past and I do wonder how Foster would handle a massive contract. It didn't work out well for Chris Johnson in Tennessee and no one had questioned him previously. Still, Foster has that big league vibe to him and he is beloved by fans.

Winner: Foster


Replacement Options

Foster's backup Ben Tate has performed tremendously well since his return from injury prior to the start of the season. He has helped the Texans form the best one-two backfield combo in the league. And in the Denver running scheme, it is common to plug in barely known backs to deliver 1000-yard seasons. With the emergence of rookies JJ Watt and Brooks Reid, it is hard to argue the Texans aren't set with their pass rush for a long time with or without Williams.

Winner: Foster


Cost

The aggregate cost for a running back in the NFL has actually decreased the past couple of years, that massive Chris Johnson contract notwithstanding. Pass rushing defensive ends always come at a premium. With Foster, you have to be concerned not just about how much but for how long as running backs can decline rapidly with age. In an ideal world, the Texans could afford both, but that probably won't happen, which is why we are even having this discussion in the first place.

Winner: Push


Longevity

As great as Foster is, there is just no question that the vast majority of running backs decline around the age of 30, particularly if they are asked to carry the load. Foster is a game changer who will be called upon a lot in the next couple years. He's got four years until 30. A great pass rushing defensive end, if his health is maintained, can stay in the league 10, 12 years easily.

Winner: Williams


Value on the Open Market

Both would have value on the open market, but I have to believe the edge here might go to Williams. Teams don't tend to spend huge dollars in free agency on running backs. They do, however, on defensive ends.

Winner: Williams


Overall Winner: Foster

The simple truth is that Arian Foster has the ball in his hands 20 to 30 times every game. His ability to impact wins and losses is much easier to quantify than Williams's. Even if he only plays a couple more seasons -- à la Terrell Davis in Denver -- he can still propel the team to a Super Bowl with the talent around him.

If there is a way to sign both and still return Meyers and Brisiel as well as find a suitable cornerback, I say go for it. Nothing would make me happier than to retain the services of a guy like Williams, who seemed to blossom in Phillips's system before he was injured. But, if you had to make a choice between the two, the choice should be Foster.

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19 comments
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MACalvo128
MACalvo128

Unfortunately DEFENSE wins ballgames...OFFENSE sells tickets!!

Mine
Mine

I'm so tired of hearing that defense wins ball games! Very few times a yeat do defenses put up points and you can't win a game without points. I'm not picking on you but I can't stand that cliche!

Normanroberts53
Normanroberts53

This is a noo brainer.foster pay the man.......................

mrshl
mrshl

Not sure why Foster is the Winner under "Attitude and Intangibles". You mentioned Williams's work with the team this year as a standout positive, while Foster's "a character" and we don't know how he'll perform with a big contract.

You didn't mention that we DO know how Williams will perform with a huge contract. Well. He had a huge rookie deal and was a beast for basically every year under the contract. Maybe it's a push. Maybe Foster is the winner here, but you really didn't explain how you came to that conclusion.

I agree you keep Foster, but I'm not sure how you're grading this stuff.

Tumbler_the_Government_Man
Tumbler_the_Government_Man

What a silly thing to write about. Not content to bash Mario, a guy who has done nothing to embarrass the city or himself, now you attempt to pit him against a teammate. It's fortunate other GM's don't consider fans and journalists (who have become the poor man's lame lawyer stirring up controversy for profit) when deciding the value of a player.

Championshipvinyl73
Championshipvinyl73

fact is fact. The defense finished as a top 3 defense WITHOUT Mario for the bulk of the season. The running game without Foster when he teweaked his hammy was considerably more anemic. Mario's money could cover Brisel and Meyers and Foster combined. Let him walk and thank him for his contrabutions. He's a 4-3 DE, plain and simple. It was only a matter of time before TEs and RBs started to expose him as a coverage liability in the flat, wheel route, and shallow seam routes.

a to the k
a to the k

"They will need to seek a better second cornerback in free agency to shore up their secondary and get Kareem Jackson out of a role for which he is clearly outmatched."

Hmmm....

Slight bone to pick here. I agree that IF the Texans move on from the Kjax / Allen combo, or Kjax exclusively, that a veteran CB is the way to go. They've shown, at least pre-Wade, that they cannot properly evaluate CBs in the draft.

But I would also like to defend Kareem a bit. It's clear that his development suffered when he was expected to replace Robinson as a rookie. Not his fault. Kubiak and Smith's fault. As well as terrible secondary coaching, pre Vance Joseph.

And he was thrust into a position where it traditionally takes even elite level NFL CBs a season or two to find their feet. Although the fans in Houston LOVE to have a scapegoat, it's also clear to anyone among the few who actually knows the game, that he has improved greatly. I'd be willing to argue that with a full training camp and some ongoing technique tweaking, he'll be a solid play-making second CB next season. And although it's not priority #1 for a CB, we all conveniently forget that he's very good against the run.

Sure, he will probably never live up to where he was drafted. But that's history. All he needs to be now is a good second CB to play with Jonathan Joseph.

Also keep in mind the defense as a whole gave up the THIRD FEWEST passing yards in the NFL this season – and had a top ranking defense in total yards allowed. he had something to do with that, right?

Spin it however you like, but the truth of the matter is that ANY corner back on the other side from Jonathan Joseph is going to get more balls thrown his way and will look inferior in comparison.

I know it's easy for you to pander to the masses and parrot popular opinion, but the Texans don't NEED to replace Kareem. If we can upgrade with a veteran, fine. But I fully expect him to be on the filed next year and to continue to improve.

Championshipvinyl73
Championshipvinyl73

and to that i'd like to throw the bullshit flag. McCourty went 7 picks after Creamed Jackson and went to the Pro Bowl. I'd say that is "finding his feet right" out of the box. 100% piss poor evaluation of talent, just like cutting Tremon Williams from the practice squad. Jackson is a bust, cut bait and look for a servicable veteran in the interim and groom a draft pick.

Kapevans
Kapevans

McCourty actually had a poor season this past year.  The Pats were one of the worst pass defenses in the league last year.  I think Jackson will play pretty well next year.  There aren't that many true lock-down corners, I mean look at all the passing records set this past year.  Corners like Revis and Joseph are few and far between.

Championshipvinyl73
Championshipvinyl73

true but half of the year McCourty was playing safety for some reason, which is why Edleman and our own reject Anquan Molden were playing CB in the playoffs. I can't remember what predicated his move to FS, but he was there over half of the season.

Championshipvinyl73
Championshipvinyl73

Arenas was the better of the 2 corners coming out of Bama that year, the Smiths just plain missed on Cream-jax.

Hhy
Hhy

You have a point about the Texans' talent evaluation, but it's not that simple. Just because the Patriots were "right" in picking McCourty, doesn't mean the Texans were "wrong" in picking Jackson.

Of course, there IS a reason New England is a perennial Super Bowl contender. They know what they're doing. How to evaluate talent and how to get the most out of the least.

But in some ways, you address the bigger point about coaching being a key part of the equation. Especially for a rookie.

Here's why what I said doesn't automatically merit the BS flag:  Look at it this way: What if you flipped the two players? What if Jackson was coached by the New England staff and / or McCourty was drafted by the Texans as rookies last season? 

If that were the case, I seriously doubt McCourty would have looked as good, and that Jackson would have looked so poor.

Again, it's easy to treat guys like Kjax as a pinata. But the truth is rarely so black and white.

Phil Butane
Phil Butane

The Texans should go ahead and let Foster walk.  In the Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak world, it's all about their "System" anyway.   Running backs are expendable.   Broncos under Shanahan (Kubiak's mentor, hero and guru) treated their "star" running backs like cattle.  (Kinda' like the Texans organization treats their fans.)

Championshipvinyl73
Championshipvinyl73

you're right Phil, it is just a "system thing" - Steve Slaton

Phil Butane
Phil Butane

Well, Steve, even you had close to 1700 combined rushing and receiving yards + 10 touchdowns in your rookie season.  Having said that, my comment was intended as a reflection of the overall arrogance that Shanahan and Kubiak possess when it comes to their offensive schemes.  I happen to think that Foster is a very special and talented running back.

a to the k
a to the k

Disagree. Yes, Foster works within a system that has made many a RB look good, but he is better than Ben Tate, who is no slouch, by the way. Foster is a clearly superior receiver out of the backfield and much more illusive than Tate when getting to the defense's second and third levels. That extra gear and knowing how to work with downfield blocking, if you will, is not a product of the zone blocking scheme at the line of scrimmage. It's both innate and learned, but not a skill set that Tate possesses yet. Given the value proposition and the way the D has performed as a unit, you have to side with signing Foster. (or both, but very doubtful)

Wyatt
Wyatt

Agreed. The system doesn't give Foster his ability to cut or see downfield.

Sancho
Sancho

If it comes down to choosing, Meyers and Brisiel are more important than Mario to the overall success of the team.  The Texans O Line was among the best in the league, and everything possible needs to be done to keep this group intact.  The offense suffered most when Brisiel was injured and Antoine Caldwell tried to fill in.  The line is the key to success, and if one of the big names guys has to go to be able to keep the line together then that is a sacrifice the team needs to make to maintain success.

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