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Cutting Brandon Williams saves the Ravens $7.5 million; Is Eric DeCosta willing to cut the defender?

Is Williams worth the $14.4 million cap hit?

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With the NFL navigating through the fallout (and still in the midst of) the COVID-19 pandemic, cap space has hit an all-time premium. According to overthecap.com, as of today there are 12 teams currently above the estimated cap ceiling. With teams desperate to acquire talent, fill out their roster and afford their incoming rookie class, each contract deserves scrutiny. For the Baltimore Ravens, that contract is DT Brandon Williams.

History of Brandon Williams contract

Williams’ deal has been modified multiple times over the years, but the original deal was signed back in March of 2017, when Williams signed a five-year, $52.5 million deal. Since the original deals’ conclusion, the Ravens have restructured his deal twice. Less than a year into the deal, they converted part of his salary into a signing bonus. The following year, they restructured his contract yet again to create more cap space, raising his cap number by $1.875 million for each of the remaining years on his contract. This, in turn, has “kicked the can” down the road. That proverbial road has now hit an end.

Ravens cap space

As of now, Baltimore boasts $18 million in cap space. It’s still uncertain if the Ravens will recoup any cap space from the Earl Thomas contract and ensuing grievance case. Therefore, it’s best to begin from the $18 million figure.

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Possible cap moves

For reference, all moves made are what I assume the Ravens will do. This isn’t a guarantee of the decisions made by the Baltimore Ravens.

With the Ravens granting Orlando Brown Jr. permission to seek a trade, it is expected he will be moved prior to free agency. For that reason, on the overthecap.com’s calculator, I’ve traded Brown Jr., which frees up $3.38 million in cap space, putting the Ravens’ total at $20.78 million.

Before any additions or signings (as I assume they will ERFA tender OL Trystan Colon-Castillo and RFA tender RB Gus Edwards), it’s clear $20.78 million doesn’t feel like enough to fill the holes on the Ravens’ roster. If they don’t acquire players for Brown Jr., they’ll need to fill two or three spots on the offensive line, along with two edge rushers and wide receiver. If they want to add starting-caliber players, $20 million isn’t enough to sign a rookie class and add the talent necessary for yet try at the Super Bowl.

For this reason, I believe it’s necessary to cut Williams to free up $7.5 million in cap space.

The case against Brandon Williams

Williams’ cap hit is third-most on the roster, though he is not among the top playmakers on the roster. While I understand his significance in run defense, both the position and his role have devalued over the past eight years. Excluding Williams’ rookie season, he played a career low in snaps (356); he was only on the field for 33% of the defense’s total snaps. I do not believe it is reasonable to pay a run-stopping defensive tackle $14.42 million to play only a third of the defense’s total snaps.

While I’m not against bringing Williams back on a heavily-discounted deal, I do not believe it is in the best interest of the team to take on such a massive cap hit for the lack of pass rush production from the defender. Baltimore needs pass rushers across the board. This offseason, Matt Judon, Yannick Ngakoue, Tyus Bowser, Pernell McPhee, Derek Wolfe and Jihad Ward all became free agents. Six pass rushers who were Ravens in 2020 are up to sign anywhere. If you want to keep any of them, it’s far easier to do so with an extra $7.5 million.