Ever since the Baltimore Ravens drafted defensive tackle Brandon Williams in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Williams has become one of the best defensive tackles in all of pro football.
Coming out of small school Missouri Southern State, Williams was mostly known for walking on his hands coming into the draft. You can pretty much erase that label as he is now known for mauling opposing offensive linemen and stuffing the run. He does it with such joy, an awesome smile and personality, that it makes you root for him. Williams has been such a huge anchor on that defense for the last three seasons and he is now set for a big payday this offseason. Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta knows this and has made it clear that re-signing the big man is a top priority heading into free agency.
When speaking to Baltimoreravens.com's Ryan Mink at the Senior Bowl last week, DeCosta stated:
“We have to try and retain him. 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."
The Ravens have had a history of letting their young players go in free agency for a bigger, and maybe even overpaid, contract elsewhere. They never panic as they replace these players with other draft picks or veteran players. The same will be said for Williams if he does leave as the Ravens have depth along the defensive line with the likes of Michael Pierce and last year’s fourth round pick Willie Henry. The Ravens will almost surely pick another defensive tackle in this years draft or pick one up in free agency for extra depth.
There is of course another important free agent from that same 2013 draft class that I'm sure the Ravens will prioritize too, Ricky Wagner. Wagner has been the starting right tackle for the last three seasons and re-signing him will help keep together an improving offensive line that could grow together for years to come. All they would need along the offensive line if they keep Wagner would be a center.
Williams is indeed the best Raven that will enter the free agent market and will be one of the best players available. The question for the Ravens is this: Is he the most important?
DeCosta, general manager Ozzie Newsome, and the rest of the Ravens brass will do their due diligence and talk to Williams to try and make him a reasonable offer. They will indeed try to retain him, but this is the same front office that just a few weeks ago talked about wanting to run the football more coming into 2017 in an effort to make the offense better.
Would keeping Williams and letting Wagner walk really be the right decision moving forward if they want to accomplish the goal of becoming a more balanced offense? Especially considering the fact that they are very good at developing defensive tackles, is it wise to pay Brandon Williams the type of money Damon Harrison got from the New York Giants last offseason?
The Ravens have a major decision to make involving Wagner and Williams. I do believe that one of them will be back in Baltimore next season. The question is who? The most important player or the best player? Either way, the decision is up to the Ravens because losing both would be a massive blow.