Nose tackle Brandon Williams has developed into the best defender on the Baltimore Ravens. He is one of the very best run defenders in the league and adept at collapsing the pocket on pass plays. Over the last two seasons, Williams has amassed impressive statistics for a man who faces double teams on the vast majority of snaps, including 64 solo tackles, two and a half sacks, two forced fumbles and two passes defensed.
Brandon Williams has proven to be durable, never missing a game due to injury over his three year career. He played in more than 68% of the Ravens defensive snaps last season, a rare feat for a 335 pound man. Furthermore, Williams played some of his best ball on the biggest stage during the 2014 playoffs and is a hard worker with exemplary character off the field.
At 27 years old, Williams should have at least five more productive seasons in his future. He embodies the type of core roster foundational players that the Ravens need to sustain long term success. The offseason before he reaches free agency is the best time to extend his contract and ensure he is wearing purple long term.
Ndamukong Suh, Marcell Dareus and Gerald McCoy are the three highest paid defensive tackles in the league, averaging more than $16 million in annual salary. However these three players have much greater pass rushing accomplishments than Williams. Better contract comparisons would be Damon Harrison who signed a 5-year $46.2 million contract with the Giants this offseason and Linval Joseph who signed for 5-years, $31.25 million with the Vikings in 2014. Based off these comps, $7 to $9 million per season for Brandon Williams seems reasonable, a 5-year $40 million contract would be fair.
At the moment, the Ravens have just under $12 million in salary cap space for 2016. This figure will decrease to approximately $6.5 million once the Jarraud Powers signing is made official and the entire draft class agrees to terms. The Ravens can clear even more space by releasing a few under-performing veterans from the bottom of the roster before the regular season begins. Plus, Williams current $1.8 million cap charge would come off the books if he is extended early.
That is plenty of cap space to sign Williams to an early contract extension without a heavily back-loaded contract structure. The benefits of being proactive with Williams include eliminating the risk of another team with a large excess of cap space overpaying him on the free agent market like Oakland did with Kelechi Osemele. An early extension also minimizes the risk that Williams will catapult his value near the Suh, Dareus, McCoy level by posting strong pass rushing numbers in 2016, which is possible considering the influx of edge rushers the Ravens brought in this offseason.
The time is now for the Ravens to lock up Brandon Williams long term.