The Ravens would love to get a deal done with pending free agent Brandon Williams before the big nose tackle officially hits the open market, but the closer it gets to March 9, the more unlikely that becomes.
Williams is arguably the top interior defensive lineman available, and he seems to understand that there's a huge contract coming his way, whether he re-signs with the Ravens or heads elsewhere in free agency. In an interview Monday with SiriusXM NFL Radio, Williams told hosts Bruce Murray and Brady Quinn that money won't be the final determinant to where he plays in 2017 and beyond.
"If it so happens where I just feel like, 'You know what, Baltimore is the best place for me,' then I'll stay and we'll work it out from there," Williams said. "If not and I see somewhere else and I just feel it's right and I pray on it and it just seems right [and] that's where I need to be, then that's where I'll be. But right now it's just up in the air. It's about money obviously, but it's not really that much about money. It's about where I feel the most comfortable and where I feel like my family will feel the most comfortable."
That qualifies as reasonably good news for the Ravens. Williams has two young boys and his family has taken to the Baltimore area and become very active in the community.
"I mean, Baltimore is a great place. It's not new to me, so it's comfortable. I know the playbook. I don't have to worry about going to another place and looking for another home for my family and a school for my kids. It all comes down to me taking care of my family for the long term and taking care of my kids for the long haul," Williams said in response to a question about potentially taking a hometown discount. "Baltimore knows that. I've talked to [head coach John Harbaugh] and [general manager Ozzie Newsome]. They know. The biggest thing is football is going to be there no matter if I'm here or somewhere else. The biggest thing is taking care of my family."
Williams will turn 28 next week, which is considered on the older side for a first-time free agent coming off his rookie contract. However, he's proven plenty durable, having played in all 16 games for three straight seasons since becoming the Ravens' starting nose tackle.
He also avoided some wear and tear by playing just over 60 percent of the Ravens' defensive snaps during the 2016 regular season after playing in 68 percent of the defensive snaps in 2015.
"I don't know if it's really cashing in on that one big contract. We do have a little amount of time to make as much money as we possibly can just to kind of set us up for life," Williams said. "I feel like though I came in as an older rookie, I still feel like I'm getting better every year. I'm going to continue to get better. I've shown that in the past. Every year I've played, I've gotten better and better. I'm not done with learning or getting better. I'm still working my butt off every year just to continue to kind of peak. I haven't even peaked yet."
Williams acknowledged in the interview that he's excited to see how things unfold over the next month, but he's also anxious because he doesn't truly know what to expect. It isn't certain that Williams reaches the open market on March 9. The Ravens could sign him to an extension over the next couple of weeks or they could use the franchise tag on him.
However, the latter option seems unlikely, given that the franchise tag for defensive linemen will cost nearly $14 million for 2017. Earmarking that much for Williams would make it difficult for the Ravens make the roster-wide improvements that they need to make.