Last week, we established a market for upcoming free agent Denver nose tackle Sylvester Williams despite some difficulty finding appropriate players to use as comparables for the 4th year player because there just aren’t a lot of 2nd contract interior linemen in the league with similar age/stats/production.
Today, we take a look at another 3-4 NT named Williams, this time Brandon of the Baltimore Ravens.
Brandon Williams was the 94th overall and late 3rd round pick of the Ravens in 2013 from Div II Missouri Southern State and was best known for impressing evaluators at Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, AL. Heading into draft season, many wondered if his lack of height (6’1”) and game film versus top collegiate competition throughout his career would harm his draft stock, as it tends to make the player much more of a high-risk option entering the draft process. Some decision-makers are scared of going out on a limb for a player like this, some are not. It’s just one of the qualities that separates successful General Managers from the also-rans.
As we look for players to help frame a financial picture for Brandon Williams, it becomes clear that last week’s subject- Sylvester Williams of the Denver Broncos- is a good one to use in this endeavor. Comparing the career stats of Brandon to Sylvester, we see many similarities but also differences that are enough to classify one as slightly more marketable than the other.
While both check in as secondary or even tertiary threats when it comes to sacking and pressuring the quarterback, Brandon Williams holds a big lead over Sylvester when it comes to total tackles. Being a big force in the run game isn’t typically rewarded in free agency as much as quarterback harassment, but it didn’t stop Damon Harrison from securing a $9M APY deal with the Giants in the spring of 2016. Harrison is a dominant player among interior DL versus the run, however, so let’s see if Brandon Williams possesses those same chops.
This makes it very clear that Harrison is at another level when it comes to wrecking the opponents’ run game. His contract sets the standard for the type of interior player that defends the run without peer despite little impact versus the pass, and he’s making clear improvements to the Giants’ run defense (5th in NFL vs run – 89.1 yds/game).
We can use this information to confirm that while Williams is pretty darn good at shedding blocks and making tackles, he shouldn’t be looking for a residence anywhere near Harrison’s $9M APY neighborhood. It’s an unreachable ceiling for Williams but it provides some clarity on the high end of his market.
The players used previously to help determine Sylvester Williams’ worth can be shared again this week with Brandon.
Clearly, Brandon Williams is a more effective player than the group of $3M-$3.75M guys shown here. We also know he’s no Snacks Harrison. What this now does for us is provide a floor-to-ceiling range for Brandon’s next deal in terms of like players.
He does, though, comparably slot rather nicely just above Sylvester Williams, who last week checked in as a $5M APY guy (3-yr, $15M deal) per our estimate. So, the parameters seem complete to be able to take an educated stab at a contract that fits Brandon Williams’ skill set.
Projection: 3 years, $16M total with $6M guaranteed ($4.5M signing bonus, $1.5M 2017 salary)
Brandon Williams is the 335lb fulcrum in Baltimore’s 3-4 defense that just so happens to lead the NFL in run defense. He’s tough, rugged and made to play in the human spin cycle that is the AFC North division.
A closer look at Baltimore’s 2017 cap structure reveals a hidden truth about this team- a lack of players that slot at or near the top of their respective positions. There are, however, several ‘2nd level’ contracts that eat up a lot of cap space. Ten, to be exact, with cap numbers between $4.3M and $8.3M next year that leave only a projected $14M of cap space.
Though he is paid like a top-tier quarterback, Elite Average Joe Flacco’s play puts him in the middle of the NFL’s starting quarterback ladder. Marshal Yanda is a very good player on the offensive line. Terrell Suggs still gets after the passer but is sliding down the backside of his career arc. Beyond those guys, there isn’t even an argument to be made for any other player on offense or defense being a superstar.
Williams and right tackle Ricky Wagner are the highest priority UFA’s Baltimore needs to deal with between now and next spring. There is no reason at all to let an up-and-coming player like Brandon Williams walk. He is integral to a defensive unit that together plays greater than the sum of its parts. To allow a guy like this leave when his contract expires would be debilitating to a roster that lacks top end talent and relies heavily on the kind of sound fundamentals and smarts Williams possesses to win games. It would not be surprising to see the team let go of a medium-sized contract or two (Mike Wallace? Ben Watson?) in order to retain the younger players.
Brandon Williams is a prototypical Baltimore Raven and I suspect he will be for several more years, despite Ozzie Newsome’s love of compensatory draft picks at the expense of departing free agents. Williams’ contract wouldn’t bring a high pick back in return anyway, so the chances of a re-signing in Baltimore appear rather favorable.