In a surprise twist on the eve of the 2006 draft, the Houston Texans announced the signing of DE Mario Williams from North Carolina State, and will make him the first overall selection Saturday afternoon.
Williams reportedly agreed to contract terms totaling $54 million dollars over six years, with a guaranteed $26.5 million signing bonus. He becomes just the third defensive end since 1985 to be chosen as the first overall selection in the draft.
The 6'7", 285-pound junior finished with a career-best 14.5 sacks and 62 total tackles last season for the Wolfpack. Over the course of three seasons, Williams compiled 158 total tackles (53 for a loss), 26.5 sacks, and two fumble recoveries. At the NFL combine, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.66, bench pressed 35 reps, and had a vertical of 40.5".
Texans owner Bob McNair indicated he and the Texans' brass had been leaning towards Williams all along, comparing his skills and potential immediate impact to the late, great Reggie White.
"The bigger short-term impact on our team would be more with a running back," said McNair. "But Mario Williams could play for 10 or 12 years, and he may be the next Reggie White. Green Bay had Brett Favre, but they won a championship when they got Reggie White."
Most thought running back Reggie Bush, the Heisman Trophy Award winner from USC, would be the first overall selection. When the decision came to decided between Bush and Williams, Texans GM Charley Casserly cited the two as equal. Apparently, negotiation talks between Bush and the Texans slowed Thursday and Friday, thus turning Houston's attention towards signing Williams before draft day.
"We like Bush and he's deserving of the first pick, but we just wanted to go defense," Casserly said. "That's all it was. We just wanted to go defense."
The signing of Williams may lead to a plethora of trade proposals prior to noon involving the New Orleans Saints, who currently hold the second overall pick. It has been speculated that the Saints, who already have veteran back Deuce McAllister, may not be in the market for a running back. If accurate, the Saints will open up to all and any trade propositions, creating quite the melee in many war rooms across the country.