The interior of the Baltimore Ravens defensive line could look very different a year from now with three veteran players including two starters only under contract through the 2021 season. One of those starters is Pro Bowl nose tackle Brandon Williams who has spent the first eight years of his career with the Ravens since getting drafted in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Missouri Southern, but is entering the final year of his contract.
Earlier this offseason, he was viewed as a potential cap casualty but the team made it clear that he was a part of their 2021 plans. Even though a shroud of uncertainty surrounds his future beyond this upcoming season, Williams remains focused on the task at hand and the here and now.
“Right now, all I’m worried about is Year 9,” Williams said after the first day of mandatory minicamp. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. But right now, we have a bad taste to get out of our mouths, and we plan on doing that starting today.”
The bad taste that Williams is referring to is yet another disappointing end to a season where the Ravens were battle-tested by adversity and appeared destined for a deeper run into the postseason. After nearly a decade in the league playing in the trenches, he knows that he is entering the twilight of his career and that in order to achieve the ultimate goal of a championship, the team must be ready to embrace the grind.
“The older I get, you definitely want to reach the pinnacle, but at the same time, you want to do what’s best for the team,” Williams said. “You want to be there for your teammates, and you want to build them up along the way.”
“Right here, right now, it’s minicamp. I’m looking forward to the guys on the line making it the best possible, so when we actually get to that first Sunday, everybody is ready, and we’ll take it from there.”
When Williams came into the league, he learned how to be a Raven and how to lead from some of the best to ever do it in both franchise and NFL history. Now that he is one of the elder statesmen and the longest-tenured defensive lineman on the roster, the responsibility of leading the next generation of Ravens’ defenders is up to seasoned vets like him, outside linebacker Pernell McPhee and cornerback Jimmy Smith.
“Oh, man – now I see what Haloti and ‘Sizz’ [Suggs] were going through,” Williams said. “You just see new guys come in every year and see guys coming in and out. When you step on that field, you have to lead them. We have to lead them to, first of all, being the best they can be in their position and their field, and then helping the team at the end win games. So, that’s the biggest goal.”
There’s no greater motivation for true competitors than the quest for greatness. For professional athletes, it could come in the form of a championship which is the ultimate testament to teamwork or cementing one’s case to go down as one of the best to ever play their position or sport altogether.
Veterans like Williams and six-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell have some unfinished business to attend to in Baltimore before their contracts expire. They are likely among the most motivated to finish what they started together last year in Campbell’s first season with the team.
“I definitely feel like guys are highly motivated,” said Head Coach John Harbaugh. “You can’t be in the league this long and play at the level that those guys you’re talking about are playing at and not be just completely highly motivated, and they are. Unfinished business is a term, I guess you could apply it.”