INDIANAPOLIS — Ravens officials met again Thursday with the representative of Brandon Williams in their latest effort to try to keep the big nose tackle off the free-agent market on March 9.
It wasn't clear how much — if any — progress the two sides made in the latest round of negotiations. The two sides have been talking for a couple of weeks as the Ravens have seemingly made re-signing the 28-year-old, who is the anchor of their run defense, their biggest priority.
As Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday during his news conference at the NFL scouting combine, the team is focused on their big three pending unrestricted free agents: Williams, right tackle Rick Wagner and fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
Williams will likely command the biggest financial commitment. It is widely believed that the Ravens will have to at least match the five-year, $46.25 million deal that the New York Giants gave run-stuffing defensive lineman Damon Harrison last March. However, that might not be enough, given the increase in the salary cap this year and the expected rise of free-agent salaries.
Williams is expected to be coveted on the free-agent market. ESPN ranked him first in its top 150 free-agent rankings Wednesday.
Making a name for himself: The shock value of being at the NFL scouting combine wore off quickly. Jerry Ugokwe, who grew up in Bowie and played at William & Mary, remembers checking his phone in between workouts a couple of weeks ago and seeing the invitation to the combine in his email.
"I was ready to go from there," Ugokwe said. "I went back to work."
Ugokwe, a 6-foot-9 and 305-pound tackle, allowed himself a smile Thursday as he considered how unlikely his football journey has been to this point. A Nigerian native, Ugokwe didn't play high school football until his junior year at Georgetown Prep. He walked on the team at William & Mary and then redshirted his freshman year.
Forty-two consecutive starts and four years later , Ugokwe is now preparing for the NFL draft, where his physical tools could lead to him being selected in the later rounds.
"I'm definitely a late bloomer, but I worked hard to get to this opportunity and to get to this situation. It's definitely a stressful week, but it's stress you want to have. It's been fun," he said. "I definitely have come here and shown that I look the part and I'm performing to the part so far. I'm definitely a guy that you want to have on your team."
End zone: Steve Smith Sr. is at the combine this week in his new role with NFL Network. … The New Orleans Saints are reportedly in talks to trade wide receiver Brandin Cooks. The asking price will likely be too high for the Ravens, who traditionally don't trade high draft picks. … Friday could be the busiest day of the scouting combine with quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends and kickers/punters all working out. Amba Etta-Tawo, who played this past season at Syracuse after starting his college career at Maryland, will be part of the wide receiver contingent.