Cornerback Lardarius Webb reached an agreement on a five-year, $50-million extension with the Ravens five days ago and officially signed his contract last Friday so the reality has long set in.
He knows that his financial future is now secure, and the new deal will bring increased pressure off the field. But he also knows that his new contract, which includes a $10-million signing bonus, doesn't change a thing about his goals and aspirations on the field.
"There are plenty of things that I can do better," Webb said today in a phone interview with The Sun. "I can be an All Pro. I can make the Pro Bowl. I can get nine [interceptions]. There are a lot of things that I can do to improve my game. Money doesn't change what I want to be in life. I want to go to Canton. I want to be the best to ever play cornerback for the Baltimore Ravens."
Webb, a third-round pick out of Nicholls State in 2009, was clearly the Ravens best cornerback this past season. He led the Ravens and the AFC North with five interceptions and 20 passes defended, and he didn't allow a touchdown pass all season. The 26-year-old also had 68 total tackles, one sack and one forced fumble and was the only player in the NFL to return both a punt and an interception for touchdowns.
The statistics and analysis website, Pro Football Focus, reported that quarterbacks had a rating of 55.6 while throwing in Webb's direction, and rated the Ravens' cornerback as the second best coverage man in the NFL behind only New York Jets perennial Pro Bowl performer Darrelle Revis. And the site didn't take into account the playoffs, where Webb was at his best, registering three interceptions in two games.
"I was just healthy," Webb said. "I came off the ACL [injury] so I played at 75 to 80 percent [in 2010]. Just being able to stop and go with wide receivers. A knee is different. It's difficult to come off the ACL surgery and be at your elite game. A lot of people forgot about that and just wrote me down as a horrible corner, and [said that I had] a horrible year. This past year, I was more prepared. It was my third year playing cornerback. I played mostly safety in college. It's just all working out."
Asked if his new deal lifts a weight off his shoulders as he prepares for the 2012 season, Webb said, "It's amazing, man. I'm just blessed. There is a relief on the football field, but not off the field. There's a lot of pressure that [goes along with it]. But on the field, I can just go out there and play free.
"We weren't trying to break the bank. We weren't trying to make it a long negotiation. We just went in with what I thought I was worth and they did a great job of coming back to us."
Webb said that he considers himself one of the top five corners in the NFL, but he realizes that he needs to prove it on a yearly basis before some consider him in the same class of cornerbacks like Revis, the Green Bay Packers' Charles Woodson and the Denver Broncos' Champ Bailey.
He, however, left little doubt about where he feels the Ravens' secondary, which includes fellow young cornerbacks Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith and veteran safeties Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed, fits in the NFL hierarchy.
"Last year was Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams' first year playing," Webb said. "I think the secondary changed completely. This year, they'll be a year older and a year better. They can do nothing but get better. These guys are growing and understanding the game. We're getting used to playing next to each other. With me, Jimmy Smith, Cary Williams and then Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed, there are not five guys better. We have the best secondary in football."