Lots Of Chatter Concerning Williams' Future
Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams is currently playing in the final year of his rookie contract, making him one of the prized free agents scheduled to hit the market in March.
There's been lots of chatter about the 6-foot-1, 340-pound mammoth over the past week, ranging from pondering whether the Ravens can afford him, to another saying the team can't afford to lose him and even a suggestion to trade him before the 4 p.m. deadline today.
The New England Patriots made news yesterday by trading top linebacker Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns for a 2017 third- or fourth-round compensatory draft pick. Collins, who is set to hit the market this offseason like Williams, was reportedly asking for "Von Miller-type" money, and Bill Belichick found a way to get a comp pick in the upcoming draft instead of waiting until 2018 if Collins left via free agency.
A similar plan was proposed by ESPN's Mike Sando, saying the Ravens should trade Williams for a third-round pick to the Oakland Raiders.
"The Ravens are getting very good production from undrafted defensive lineman Michael Pierce, which could give them flexibility to get value for Williams, who is signed only through 2016," he wrote. "Baltimore could get a decent compensatory pick in 2018 if Williams were to leave in free agency. Why not try to get something in the 2017 draft instead?
It's a clever plan, but unlikely to happen by this afternoon.
The Ravens boast the league's No. 4 defense, and a big reason for that is the presence of Williams clogging the middle of the line. He often flies under the national radar because he doesn't generate much pass rush, but he showed his dominance against the New York Jets with eight tackles (two for a loss), a sack and blocked kick.
While Williams will likely finish out his rookie contract in Baltimore, there will still be a very real question as to whether the Ravens can pay him enough to keep him in the purple and black beyond 2016.
"The Ravens have let some top defenders go to gain compensatory picks, but Williams is too dominant," wrote ESPN's John Clayton.
For the record, Clayton also predicted the Patriots would keep Collins.
The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec isn't so certain the Ravens can retain Williams, citing his position, salary-cap limitations and an undrafted rookie defensive lineman who could help replace the veteran.
"It might seem like an obvious move, given Williams is a very good player and he does the right things on and off the field. But there's also a school of thought around the game that you should spend big money on pass rushers and cornerbacks, not run-stuffing interior defensive linemen," Zrebiec wrote.
"They also have [Pierce], who has played extremely well this year and could be a cheaper, yet obviously less proven, replacement. They'd love to keep Williams, but they're going to have to decide whether he's a necessity or a luxury that they can't afford."
Roethlisberger Took First-Team Reps Monday
Head Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens are preparing this week as if injured starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is going to play this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
"We'll operate under that assumption," he said.
That sounds like a smart assumption based on reports out of Pittsburgh saying Big Ben took some first-team reps Monday.
Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler that Roethlisberger moved well in the pocket, threw with authority and ran a no-huddle offense.
"Roethlisberger wasn't available for comment after practice," wrote Fowler. "The team likely won't make a determination on Roethlisberger's game status until later in the week."
While the Ravens are prepping for Roethlisberger, the Steelers are also prepping backup Landry Jones. If he ends up playing, Baltimore won't have to scramble much.
"The offense doesn't change that much if Landry Jones is in there," Harbaugh said. "Obviously, they're different players. Ben is Ben. We respect him tremendously."
The Ravens are 6-1 against the Roethlisberger-less Steelers in the regular season, and are 8-9 when he plays, per ESPN.
Michael Campanaro Posts Video, Says He's 'Ready' For Return
When the Ravens reached an injury settlement with receiver Michael Campanaro (calf) on Sept. 12, the team reportedly hoped it could re-sign him when he became available nine weeks later.
Well, the River Hill High School standout can officially re-join the Ravens in six days, and he posted a video of himself running a route and saying he's "ready." He's been free to join another team.
Whether the Ravens will re-sign Campanaro is unknown, but if returner Devin Hester continues to struggle with leg injuries and fumbles, the Ravens could use Campanaro to field punts. He could also add a spark to a struggling wide receiver corps.
How Much Increased Workload Can We Expect For Dixon?
Before the bye, Harbaugh said he would like to see fourth-round rookie running back Kenneth Dixon on the field more.
How much more?
Harbaugh didn't say, but ESPN's Jamison Hensley set up some modest expectations, noting rookie running backs have rarely gotten a big workload under Harbaugh. Even Ray Rice, who eventually became a perennial Pro Bowler, only averaged 10.7 touches per game his first season.
"That's why it would go against the Ravens' track record to put the running game on the shoulders of Dixon," Hensley wrote. "But it's reasonable to project more than a handful of touches for him, which has been the case in his first three games. … He will earn more playing time if he can improve in pass protection."
West injured his ankle during the Jets game, which could give an opening to Dixon.
"West has earned the right to remain the featured back for now, averaging 76.2 yards rushing since becoming the starter the past four games," Hensley wrote. "But West's injury could be a sign that the Ravens need to split up some carries in order to reduce wear and tear for their backs."
Can Ravens Win AFC North?
While the Ravens are very much in the race for the top spot of the AFC North, the folks at CSNMidAtlantic.com debated whether the Ravens are built to actually win.
The Ravens believe and say they are going to get things together and start a winning streak, but it didn't happen during the entire month of October, when they went 0-4.
"They got to show me, instead of me just believing it," Brian Mitchell said in the video below. "I don't know. I honestly, for the first time with the Ravens, am saying, 'I don't know.'"
Harbaugh said he is unclear whether Ozzie will make a move at NFL trade deadline. — Brian Bower (@sportguyRSR) October 31, 2016