The Baltimore Ravens have been no strangers to watching talented players nearly year after year walk out the door and sign elsewhere in free agency for more money. Recent seasons have seen players such as Pernell McPhee and Kelechi Osemele sign elsewhere for salaries the Ravens were unwilling to spend.
It cannot be ignored that part of Baltimore’s occasional stubbornness to break out the check book for their own free agents is due in no small part to their affinity for playing the compensatory pick formula to their favor. They tend to let players go and take the compensation in the form of an extra draft pick provided that they believe that they have a replacement.
One player that they really don’t seem ready to lose during this free agency period of four-year veteran nose tackle Brandon Williams. The former third-round draft pick is the most underrated interior defensive lineman in the league and in my personal estimation deserves to be in the Pro Bowl.
“We have to try to retain him” is what Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta conveyed to reporters at the Senior Bowl recently. “He’s an ‘A’ player for us, he’s one of our best defensive players. He’s a rock inside. This guy can stuff the run, he can rush the quarterback, he can do everything we want him to do”.
Williams is a true nose tackle of the sort of breed that is quite scarce in the league these days. His better-than-average ability to push the pocket in passing situations allows him to get on the field for a greater number of snaps than the position would typically get in today’s game.
He was instrumental over the course of the past three seasons during which he has been the starter in keeping the Ravens’ defense among the best in the league in terms of stopping the run. The Pittsburgh Steelers found this out all too well excepting their most recent meeting. Williams is the only opposing player who has ever been the subject of one of my film studies before.
“He’s able to force a double team, and if you don’t double team him, he’s going to make the play in the backfield” is what his defensive line coach had to say. “To be, there isn’t a better nose tackle in football”. I would be inclined to agree.
DeCosta talked about Williams in terms of how he fits in well with the Ravens’ legacy of quality interior defensive line play from Haloti Ngata back to Tony Siragusa. Still, he left the door open for Williams to walk out as he talked up young former undrafted free agent Michael Pierce.