MOBILE, Ala. _ There is no doubt the Tennessee Titans need a defensive difference-maker, whether it comes from the draft or in free agency.
In the past, the Titans have been somewhat reluctant to make many free agent splashes, but the biggest impact defender potentially in the 2012 free agent market might be worth Tennessee going after with some of its $30 million under the salary cap.
Mario Williams, currently of the Houston Texans, can be a free agent come March 13, provided the Texans don't re-sign him or put the franchise tag on him.
Williams, the first overall pick in the 2006 draft, has been a dominant player for several years, and the Titans know him well from facing him twice a year inside the AFC South.
Williams made the switch from a 4-3 defensive end, his natural position, to an outside linebacker spot in Wade Phillips' 3-4. The transition was relatively smooth, but there is the school of thought that if Williams escapes to the open market, he might look first at a 4-3 team to get back to being a rush end, rather than a 3-4 linebacker.
Whether the Titans would pay the type of money Williams would be looking for if he got to the open market is not known. They certainly can't make any comments about players on other teams until free agency opens, and rarely has the franchise thrown big money at outside free agents.
But if Tennessee were to decide to be competitive in the bidding, word is that Williams and his camp would give a serious listen to what the Titans have to say.
The Texans have said re-signing Williams is their No. 1 priority in free agency, though a report from Peter King of SI.com indicated they are perhaps rethinking how much money they should allot to Williams.
From the Titans' perspective, the thought of taking the current division champion's best defender away is a possibility they should at least entertain.
Also, regarding Williams' torn pectoral muscle, indications are he has already been cleared to return and could have been available to play in the Texans' playoff loss to Baltimore had the team not already placed him on injured reserve.