Two of the greatest ball hawks in NFL history, Rod Woodson and Ed Reed, helped the Ravens win their two Super Bowls. Since then, Baltimore signed another crafty thief in Eric Weddle. In 2019, the Ravens tried the formula again with Earl Thomas.
After a couple years looking for that ball-hawk on the back end, the Ravens landed that rare asset with Marcus Williams, who inked his five-year deal in Baltimore Thursday afternoon.
Williams' stats and film already tell the story of the rangy playmaker he'll be on the back end of the Ravens defense. But his introductory press conference also painted a clear picture of the kind of swagger and mentality he's bringing to Baltimore as well.
"When the ball is in the air, I think it's mine every time," Williams said.
Williams had 15 interceptions in his five seasons in New Orleans. That's already strong and consistent production, but Williams feels he's still very much ascending at just 25 years old.
Now in a secondary alongside Chuck Clark and with two of the top cornerbacks in the game, Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, Williams may have even more opportunities to pick off quarterbacks.
"I feel like I can kind of intimidate quarterbacks. He knows if he throws it up in the air, with my range it's pretty much gone," Williams said. "I'd rather be a little more targeted so I could get more interceptions."
General Manager Eric DeCosta sat next to Williams with a beaming smile. It was quite clear from his WWE-style spinning lift celebration Tuesday when the two sides agreed to terms that DeCosta feels it's a game-changing addition.
DeCosta said the Ravens liked Williams when he was coming out of college at Utah, where he had five interceptions in each of his final two seasons. The Saints picked him in the second round that year, five picks before Baltimore chose outside linebacker Tyus Bowser.
The Ravens have long been an aggressive defense that thrives on takeaways, but only four teams had fewer interceptions than Baltimore's nine last season. That didn't sit well with DeCosta.
"He's a player we long coveted dating back to the draft process," DeCosta said. "He fits us. Over the years, I've referenced guys like Rod Woodson, Ed Reed, guys that can make game-changing plays at the right time. We've seen the impact those types of guys can have on the NFL.
"There's not a lot of type of these guys. … Typically, there are a lot of good safeties that will help you. But to have a guy on the back end that has the type of vision, instincts, eyes and ball skills, those guys are few and far between."
Williams was one of the top free agents on the market and he said the deal came together quickly once the Ravens expressed their interest. Williams had communicated with Weddle, another former Utah product, about the culture in Baltimore and knew he wanted to be part of it.
Williams said he didn't grow up watching Reed. He didn't really watch other safeties until he got into the NFL because he was just playing football, watching himself and trying to improve.
"I didn't really try to follow in someone's footsteps. I really try to make my own path," Williams said. "They're all great players, but at some point I want to be better than that."
Signing his second contract, for a reported $70 million, was an emotional moment for Williams, who had his entire family surrounding him. His rookie year, Williams was on the wrong side of the "Minneapolis Miracle" when a missed tackle on Stefon Diggs turned into a game-winning touchdown for the Vikings in the divisional playoffs.
Since then, he rebounded and kept grinding to become one of the best safeties in the league. And now he doesn't intend to stop growing.
"I'm barely getting started in my game right now," Williams said. "I feel like I haven't reached my full potential. I feel like here is going to help elevate my game way more."