When you look at the Baltimore Ravens unrestricted free agent list, the four players who stand out are NT Brandon Williams, RT Rick Wagner, FB Kyle Juszczyk and CB Jarraud Powers. Would it be wise for the Ravens to re-sign all of them? It depends if they are the right player at the right price as the Ravens always say. But when push comes to shove, it is probably not a good idea for the Ravens to invest too much money in re-signing its unrestricted free agents.
First off, when you look at Williams, he is probably the most underrated defensive lineman in the game. The attention he brings in the running game is a big reason why the Ravens decided to trade away defensive lineman Haloti Ngata during the 2015 offseason. Williams may very well command big dollars in free agency and if he does, it is OK if the Ravens let him walk.
The reason why I say it is OK if the Ravens let him walk is because I really feel like the last four games of the 2016 regular season was money time for Williams. With the Ravens playoff hopes on the line at the time, it just felt like that stretch would determine if his stock would rise or fall.
As the anchor of the Ravens run defense, Williams along with the rest of the Ravens front seven had an opportunity to stop the run like it did all season up until that point and the run defense failed. Every time it came to playing on the road against an offensive line that had an a very good running game like the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens defense failed in key moments.
The Ravens run defense is good, but it isn’t good enough to control elite offensive lines in its tracks when it comes to the running game or even the passing game. How much money do the Ravens want to spend on one player in Williams who’s attributes are pretty good, but doesn’t elevate one phase of the defense to dominance? That’s a question that members of Ravens front office have to ask themselves.
Not to mention, if the Ravens want to have a defense that stops the run first, make sure it is one that close to unmovable at the line of scrimmage because in this day and age, it is way too easy to pass the ball. It could be 3rd and 17 and all it takes is a decent window to open up in the passing game to create a first down with the way the rules are. If the 2016 season is any indication, dominant defenses around the NFL do not exist so spending a lot of money right now on that side of the ball could be a high risk, high reward situation.
In my opinion, it is better to develop the defense through the draft rather than in free agency. If the Ravens want to spend money this offseason, use it on the offensive side of the ball starting with Wagner. Wagner is 27 years old and is one of the better pass blocking right tackles in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Wagner was ranked in the top 20 among all NFL tackles in pass protection during the 2016 season. Keep Wagner and the team solidifies the right side of the offensive line with the center position being the only big question mark.
The Ravens shouldn’t fall in love with its own players at the moment. The Ravens were 8-8 last season for a reason and it was because the team lacks game changing players. It isn’t a bad roster, it just isn’t good enough for the Ravens to separate itself from the mediocre pack in the AFC.