Economics 101 is pretty hazy now. I do remember being awake for the lesson about scarcity, which is still helpful when trying to understand the NFL free agent market for pass rushers.
Mario Williams is going to be a very rich man this year. The Texans defensive end is a rare talent, and will be a hot commodity on the open market. Pass rushing superstars rarely make it to free agency because teams want to keep them. Pass rushers are one of the more important commodities in the last 30+ years of the NFL.
There are a few options beyond Williams on the market, especially if a team is looking for a situational player or someone to complement an elite pass rusher.
Mario Williams, DE/OLB, Houston Texans
The crown jewel of free agency this year (sorry, Peyton Manning). Whoever signs Williams, just 27, will have him locked up through the prime of his career. If Charles Johnson received a six-year, $76 million deal from Carolina last year, Williams could fetch a deal exceeding the magic $100-million level. The other guys on this list should thank him.
We covered Williams in-depth a few weeks ago, including potential suitors, so be sure to check that out for plenty of fodder on his free agency tour.
Potential destinations: Buffalo, Jacksonville, San Diego, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Houston
John Abraham, DE, Atlanta Falcons
Abraham, 34, is in the twilight of career, but he still has value as a situational pass rusher. His pass rushing skills are second only to Williams in this group. The problem is his age so he may be looking for one last payday.
Potential destinations: Miami, Seattle, Tennessee, Atlanta
Jeremy Mincey, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville is working to keep Mincey, as they should. He picked up eight sacks last season, and was able to pressure opposing quarterbacks even more. Whatever team that signs Mincey will have to have to ask itself whether Mincey was simply a late bloomer who finally got his chance or a contract-year fluke.
Potential destinations: Atlanta, Cincinnati, Jacksonville
Andre Carter, DE/OLB, New England Patriots
A torn quad ended Carter's season in December last year. Too bad, the Patriots could have used Carter in the postseason. His injury and age, 33, could make him an affordable option for teams looking to supplement their stable of pass rushers. A recent report from the Boston Globe said that the Patriots were close to re-signing Carter.
Potential Destinations: Atlanta, New England, Tennessee
Mark Anderson, DE/OLB, New England Patriots
Anderson surprised the world with 12 sacks for the Bears in his rookie season, but he disappeared after that. Until Bill Belichick found him. Anderson had 10 sacks last season as a situational pass rusher. He played better as a rushing linebacker last season than on the line. He still has some value.
Potential destinations: Miami, New England, San Diego
Israel Idonije, DE, Chicago Bears
Limited in his usefulness, Idonije does have 13 sacks over his last two seasons. He does well as a run defender, but can hardly be counted on as anything more than a bit player in the pass rush.
Potential destinations: Chicago, Miami, New Orleans