The Ravens said that signing nose tackle Brandon Williams was a top priority and delivered on the declaration with a contract that makes him the highest-paid nose tackle in the NFL.
With negotiations continuing through the official start of the free-agent signing period, the sides agreed to a five-year, $54 million contract with $27.5 million guaranteed on Thursday night. The deal easily exceeds the five-year, $46.25 million contract with $24 million guaranteed that the New York Giants awarded Damon Harrison in free agency a year ago.
Considered one of the best run-stopping nose tackles in the NFL since he became a starter in 2014, Williams collected 51 tackles, one sack, and one pass breakup while playing in all 16 games for the third year in a row this past season. He graded as the 39th-best interior line defender by Pro Football Focus and was 18th among defensive tackles in Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 rankings.
In 55 career games, Williams has amassed 156 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks, three forced fumbles, and three pass breakups.
A respected member of the locker room, the personable Williams became a fan favorite soon after he he was selected in the third round of the 2013 draft out of Missouri Southern State. The 6-foot-1, 340-pound nose tackle has also been very active in the community as he serves as a spokesman for the Maryland Food Bank, works closely with the Boys and Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore, and has helped host the annual Goodwill Gridiron Halloween Party.
Williams becomes the first Ravens draft pick since cornerback Jimmy Smith from the 2011 draft to receive a long-term second contract with Baltimore.
It remains to be seen how such a lucrative payday for Williams might impact general manager Ozzie Newsome’s ability to make other improvements to a roster with a plethora of needs on both sides of the ball. The 2013 third-round pick has anchored a run defense that’s ranked third in the NFL in rushing yards allowed in his three years as a starter, but he offers little as a pass rusher and the Ravens have consistently found defensive line talent through a variety of channels over the years. The roster also had several young options such as Michael Pierce, Carl Davis, and Willie Henry who could have been asked to fill more meaningful roles had Williams departed and those resources been used elsewhere.
Having already signed safety Tony Jefferson to a four-year, $36 million contract earlier in the day, the Ravens will likely need to make more cuts to clear room on their salary cap and to try to address other needs. To this point, the Baltimore offense has lost starting right tackle Rick Wagner and Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk in free agency, gained veteran running back Danny Woodhead, and re-signed backup quarterback Ryan Mallett. The Ravens also have an obvious need at wide receiver after the retirement of Steve Smith at the end of the season.