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Brandon Williams Couldn't Imagine Himself In Any Other Color


Brandon Williams never cleaned out his locker after the Ravens' 2016 season ended.

Really, he never left. He still came to the rather sleepy, construction-zoned Under Armour Performance Center every once in a while to work out by himself or with some teammates, as if he wasn't one of the league's top pending free agents.

It was Williams' subtle way of convincing himself, and those around the building, that he was going to be back.

"I wanted to come back. I figured I would try to leave hints and kind of speak it into existence," Williams said. "When it got down to it, I couldn't see myself in any other color than purple and black."

"I wish I knew all that," General Manager Ozzie Newsome jokingly chimed in. "I'm going to go start checking lockers."

While Williams certainly broke the bank with a five-year, $52.5 million contract making him the richest nose tackle in the league, it was obvious Friday that the two sides are a perfect, and very valuable, pairing. He's worth it.

On Thursday, after coming to an agreement, Newsome and Williams shared a joyful phone call that neither one will soon forget.

"The emotions that he had on that phone, the excitement, how happy he was," Newsome said. "It was just something that my wife said, "You are on a high!" And I was. Because just talking with Brandon and how he felt, and I could just feel it through the phone."

"That phone call … Knowing that I was going to continue being a Raven," Williams added. "Talking to Ozzie and just hearing the happiness and joy in his voice just kind of put a stamp on it that I made the right decision, I made the right choice."

Williams was so amped up to sign his contract that he came to the building on Friday, but it wasn't ready yet. He eventually just strolled around, chatting and celebrating. After an emotional weekend reflecting on how far he's come from his days living with his mom and brother out of a car in Missouri, he returned bright-and-early Monday morning to put pen to paper.

Williams is a Raven for the long haul, and it was obvious that he couldn't be more excited about it.

"First off, I want to say I'm glad to be home," Williams said at the start of his press conference.

"This whole weekend has been emotional. That phone call [with Newsome] … Knowing that I was going to continue being a Raven. Talking to Ozzie and just hearing the happiness and joy in his voice just kind of put a stamp on it that I made the right decision, I made the right choice."

Williams spent the next six minutes thanking everyone he could think of – God, his mother, his fiancé, his agent, Newsome, Head Coach John Harbaugh, Owner Steve Bisciotti, former Defensive Line Coach Clarence Brooks and his fans.

Newsome and Harbaugh sat beaming on either side, the three trying to hold in their emotions and clearly glad that it worked out in the end.

It wasn't always clear. Multiple teams were interested in Williams, and early reports indicated that it didn't look likely that he would end up back in Baltimore. Once a player of Williams' caliber hits the open market, where teams often have more to spend than the Ravens, they often leave.

But Baltimore went all out to keep Williams, and Newsome pulled back the curtain on the process.

He said team brass came to what it thought was a fair salary for Williams when it met immediately after the season ended at Bisciotti's home in Jupiter, Fla. However, that can change based on the market. The rising salary cap and deals struck early in free agency sway that number. After all, the two sides were unable to reach a deal before the eleventh hour.

On Thursday morning, just hours before free agency officially opened, Bisciotti, Newsome, Harbaugh and Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta hopped on a call together. They came to an agreement on, presumably, a different offer. Then, later in the day, Bisciotti called Newsome back and told him to "do what you have to do to get the deal done."

"Having an owner like that really helps myself and Pat to be able to put together a deal that can keep good players on our football team," Newsome said.

Williams, 28, is perhaps the NFL's best run-stuffing defensive tackle. Since he became a starter in 2014, the Ravens have given up the third-fewest rushing yards in the league (93.8 per game). He's strong, athletic and gritty. He also pushes the pocket into the quarterback's face.

"Here's a man that does nothing but work as hard as he can work with as good an attitude as you can possibly have and go out there and attempt to dominate every single play," Harbaugh said. "That's his goal."

Newsome said Williams is "right up there" with some of Baltimore's revered defensive tackles such as Tony Siragusa, Sam Adams, Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata.

"He's right up there as a player, but also as a person," Newsome said.

The Ravens build their team up the middle, and Williams is at the literal nose of the defense. That's a position that Baltimore highly prioritizes, which in part explains their financial commitment.

The other part is what was on display Friday, and has been ever since the Ravens used their third-round pick on Williams in 2013. Williams walked into Baltimore fans' hearts on his hands, and hasn't left. He's extremely well-liked in the locker room and around the building, and hated by opponents.

"This is a really good move, really good investment for us because of who he is," Harbaugh said.

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