The Baltimore Ravens were one of the most annoying teams for opposing teams to play against. Even though their record, 8-8, screams mediocrity, 12 of their 16 games were decided by one score or less. With a sup-optimal offense, the Ravens were only able to reach a .500 record on the back of its stout defense, especially its run defense which can at least be partly attributed to the defensive line’s best player, Brandon Williams.
Coming off a career year, Williams will demand a lot of open money on the market place. With the resurrection of the running game in the NFL this year, teams will look to stop the New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Atlanta Falcons from running all over them. To prevent this, teams might attempt to recreate the New York Giants model, spend big on defensive free agents. As a result of their spending, the Giants rose from 30th in defensive DVOA in 2015, to second in 2016. This is especially pertinent to Williams because he fits the mold of the run stuffing tackle that the Giants broke the bank on to help make their team the 3rd strongest run defense in football, Damon Harrison.
This is also one of the strongest reasonings for the Ravens to break out the pocket book. A team can seriously lose some of its defensive edge when it allows a player to leave. For example, if you look back at Damon Harrison‘s former team, the New York Jets, you see a team that fell from 5th in defensive DVOA all the way down to 21st. In addition, the Ravens may have other play makers on defense at other positions, but they do not have another gap filling defensive tackle to step up on the depth chart, as back up Winston Guy has always been more of a role player. They would either have to replace him with the uncertainty of a draft pick, or look to the bargain bins of free agency to find someone that would cost less.
It’s defensive superiority was the one thing that the 2016-2017 Baltimore Ravens really had that gave the team an identity. Its much maligned offense attempted to thrive on the arm of Joe Flacco with little avail, and relied on the other side of the ball to keep them in games. Its dominance was built from the line to the secondary, and with the uncertainty of health of players like Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb, and its reliance on aging stars like Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, and Eric Weddle, Baltimore could ill afford to lose one of its most consistent and dominant young players.
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