Surprisingly, the Baltimore Ravens announced Thursday morning that they have signed tight end Nick Boyle to a three-year contract extension worth $18 million that includes $10 million in guarantees and that now means he won’t be an unrestricted free agent a week from now. Boyle getting a decent-sized deal probably means that Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James will as well when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next Thursday. Boyle’s recent contract extension also now means that fellow Ravens tight end Maxx Williams will likely be allowed to test unrestricted free agency and he could be a player the Steelers show some interest in.
Williams, as many of you probably remember, was originally selected by the Ravens in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Minnesota. In fact, the Ravens traded their 58th overall selection in the second-round of that draft, along with a fifth rounder (No. 158), for the 55th overall pick from the Arizona Cardinals to draft Williams.
When that trade happened, it was reported that the Ravens moved up to get Williams for fear that the Steelers would select him in the second-round. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette even reported at the time that the Steelers were indeed all set to draft Williams before the Ravens jumped ahead and snaked him from them.
The Steelers did indeed seemingly show a lot of interest in Williams during the 2015 pre-draft process as not only did they meet with him at the combine, they also had personnel on hand for his Minnesota pro day. Williams wasn’t a pre-draft visitor that year, however, not that there’s much to read into that.
To date, Williams’ NFL career hasn’t gone overly great as he’s caught just 63 passes for 497 yards and 3 touchdowns in 42 games played in. While Williams was never seemingly hurt last season, he has already missed 19 games during his NFL career due to concussion, knee and ankle injuries. That knee issue in 2016 required surgery and resulted in him being placed on the Ravens Reserve/Injured list early during the season.
Last season, Williams played nearly 375 total offensive snaps and just over 41% of all special teams snaps. He registered those snap counts despite being a healthy inactive for three games. In case you’re curious, Williams was credited with 3 special teams tackles last season.
In preparation of possibly losing James in free agency this offseason, the Steelers gave tight end Xavier Grimble a restricted free agent tender that should keep him in Pittsburgh. If James does indeed sign elsewhere in the coming weeks, and Williams doesn’t get much attention in the early weeks in free agency, he could be a player the Steelers try to sign on the cheap. Williams, just like current free agent cornerback Kevin Johnson, whom I wrote about recently, are exactly the kind of free agents that Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert likes to sign as they have draft pedigree and also should come cheap.
In his two seasons at Minnesota, Williams caught 61 passes for 986 yards and 13 touchdowns. He declared for the 2015 NFL Draft as a a third-year sophomore and at the combine he measured in at just under 6’4″ and he weighed 249 pounds. He reportedly ran 4.78 second 40-yard dash and did 17 reps of 225 pounds on the bench during his combine workout.