The Ravens' biggest pending free agent – both literally and figuratively – is nose tackle Brandon Williams.
Williams is the Ravens' anchor on the defensive line, and has grown into a run-stuffing monster that made Baltimore one of the league's toughest teams to run on last season.
So will Baltimore be able to keep him?
The NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, who is plugged into the free agency market, believes Baltimore will at least give it a very real try.
"Brandon Williams is a guy, homegrown, really, really good player," Rapoport said at the Senior Bowl. "I would expect a very competitive offer from the Ravens to try to get him to stay."
The Ravens have had to watch high draft picks, and good players, leave after their rookie contracts expired. Here's the list of such instances since 2008:
- OT Michael Oher (Tennessee Titans)
- OLB Paul Kruger (Cleveland Browns)
- DT Arthur Jones (Indianapolis Colts)
- WR Torrey Smith (San Francisco 49ers)
- OLB Pernell McPhee (Chicago Bears)
- OLB Courtney Upshaw (Atlanta Falcons)
- OG Kelechi Osemele (Oakland Raiders)
The Ravens have also watched other veterans, such as wide receiver Anquan Boldin (trade), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (trade) and safety Ed Reed (free agency), move on. While some of these players have starred elsewhere (Osemele went to his first Pro Bowl this year), the majority have not played up to their large second contracts.
"It's one thing that the Ravens have never done, which is let really good players walk out of the building," Rapoport said. "If they do, for instance Courtney Upshaw is one that obviously comes to mind, it's usually by their own choice."
Other times, General Manager Ozzie Newsome has awarded some players with second contracts. That list includes quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice, cornerback Lardarius Webb, tight end Dennis Pitta and cornerback Jimmy Smith.
Now the question is whether Williams is worthy of being one of those Ravens who the team determines is worth a long-term commitment at a high price. Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said last week that the Ravens have to try to retain Williams.
"He’s an ‘A’ player for us, he's one of our best defensive players," DeCosta said. "He's a rock inside. This guy can stuff the run, he can rush the quarterback, he can do everything we want him to do."
Williams has said he wants to return to Baltimore, and Rapoport thinks that's a good idea as well.
"It's a situation where if you're a player like he is, you want to stay," Rapoport said. "Baltimore was made for players like him. There's so much of it that fits."
Nose tackles historically haven't gotten big paydays as the run stuffers are sometimes overlooked in the pass-heavy NFL. They are more of a specialty position if they can't be used on all three downs.
But over the last couple years, players like Williams have gotten huge paydays.
The Minnesota Vikings re-signed defensive tackle Linval Joseph to a reported five-year, $31.25 million contract in 2014. Damon "Snacks" Harrison signed a reported five-year, $46.25 million contract with the New York Giants last offseason.
"Let's look at Damon 'Snacks' Harrison, the deal he got. Tremendous run stopper," ESPN's Adam Caplan said. "Brandon Williams is one of the more underrated defensive tackles in the league. If he makes it to free agency, yes, he will get paid and he will get a big deal."
Rapoport pointed out that Harrison ended up being worth the money after the New York Jets let him walk. Harrison had 86 tackles and 2.5 sacks this year, making the Giants' defensive front one of the best in the league. He was named as an All-Pro for the first time.
"In the end, you're looking for really good defensive players," Rapoport said. "Whatever position they are, if part of the way you build the defense is around them, then that's a guy you want to keep."