When Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb tore his ACL in October, Cary Williams was elevated to the team’s top corner, typically covering the best receiver on the field.
Fast forward 15 weeks later, Williams and his teammates are one of just two teams left playing football in February, as the Ravens will play the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday. All season long, the defense has been in “bend but don’t break” mode and have weathered the storm when it came to significant injuries to Webb, and linebackers Terrell Suggs (Achilles/biceps) and Ray Lewis (triceps).
Williams and safety Ed Reed are the only members of the defense who will have started all 20 games this season. While they kept their heads above water during the regular season, they’ve been drowning opposing offenses in the playoffs, allowing 14.3 points-per-game when Suggs, Lewis, Reed, and Haloit Ngata are healthy enough to play.
After turning down a contract extension reportedly worth $15 million during the offseason, Williams will become a free agent after the Super Bowl, and his future in Baltimore remains undetermined.
The Ravens will be restricted in their buying power due to a tight salary cap and other franchises will be bidding for Williams’ services. Assessing just exactly how much Williams is worth is a more difficult task.
In his fifth NFL season, Williams recorded his first interception. Since then, he’s added five more – none bigger than sealing the Ravens second-ever Super Bowl appearance by picking off Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s pass in the end zone in the AFC Championship Game.
While Williams’ interceptions are attractive, there are a few other stats provided by Pro Football Focus that aren’t flattering and will make it challenging to assess his value.
In coverage, Williams has allowed 938 yards, the fourth-highest for a cornerback this season. Also, when quarterbacks need a first down, Williams has been picked on. This season, he has allowed 45, the second-most in the NFL.
Regardless of what his excuse may be, the stats aren’t flattering. Still, he may not be 100% at fault. Reed’s production has been declining and it’s evident that Williams’ main job in the defense at times has been to not allow a receiver to get behind him. Williams has given up some big plays, but not many that cripple the defense to where they can’t dig themselves out of a hole.
It’ll be interesting to see what Williams signs for during the offseason and just where exactly he’ll be playing in 2013 and beyond. Many, including myself, believed Williams made the wrong move by turning down the $15 million before the regular season, but Williams’ self confidence and six interceptions should be good enough to show that his gamble will eventually pay off financially.
If I’m a front office member making a gut decision on Williams, I’m discounting his yards and first downs allowed stats – and even his interceptions. Williams was clearly in a scheme for the majority of the season to adjust for the main injured pieces on the defense and did a good job covering top receivers.
Regardless of what Williams signs for, he’ll be a gamble because he’ll likely have more help at safety wherever he chooses. I think Williams is worth that gamble because there aren’t many players in NFL locker rooms that have the confidence, work ethic, and heart that Williams does. He felt strongly enough to decline financial security for the rest of his life once before, he’s just not going to say yes to any offer on the table now.
Cary Williams will make more than $15 million on his next contract. Take that to the bank.