As a member of a very talented defense with the New Orleans Saints that was loaded from front to back with Pro Bowlers, notable names, and seasoned pros, sixth-year veteran safety Marcus Williams kind of flew under the radar in the eyes of most casual fans through the first five years of his career.
Despite being a proven playmaker in his own right, the Baltimore Ravens‘ prized free agent acquisition of this past offseason wasn’t widely viewed as a household name even after a signed a lucrative five-year deal worth $70 million and $37 million guaranteed to come to Charm City.
After an insanely hot start to the season in which he has led the team in tackles in each of their first two games and leads the entire league in interceptions with three, Williams is finally getting the spotlight and recognition he is due.
While he was already well known around the league as well as within the analytical community and amongst the vast majority of film junkies, the 26-year-old is on the fast track to stardom now that he is one of the prominent faces and a dominant presence on another loaded defense.
Even the team’s Week 2 loss against the Miami Dolphins was an epic collapse in which most of the blame was placed on the secondary and their many blown coverages, Williams had an amazing game. He led the team with 10 total tackles, broke up a pair of passes, intercepted two passes, and could’ve had a third late that would’ve essentially sealed a victory.
His first interception came on and ended the Dolphins’ first drive of the game. He made a great break on the ball in what looked like it was going to just be a nice pass breakup before he corraled it before the ball could touch the ground.
On his second, Williams made an even more impressive play where he come over the top and picked off a pass that was intended for Jaylen Waddle. He showed off his great ball skills and body control on the boundary as he dragged both of his feet in bounds like a wide receiver making a clutch catch to move the chains except he gave the ball back to his red-hot offense.
Being a ball hawk is something that comes naturally and is nothing new to Williams who now has 18 career interceptions and 41 pass breakups. He attributes his impressive ball skills to his background playing wide receiver at the prep level.
“My rookie year, my first pick was a one-handed interception, so I’m not new to this,” Williams said in a press conference on September 21, 2022. “I’ve been doing it. I played receiver in high school, so these are all just plays that I’ve been making since I was younger, and I just continue to do it as if it was routine.”
As amazing as his individual performance was, Williams wasn’t satisfied because the end result of the game was Ravens’ loss and he is more focused on winning.
“It is what it is. I just try to come out here and try to do my job and go out there and try to do the best I can to help our team get a win,” Williams said. “I’m not really focused on my individual goals, I’m just focused on us getting those wins week in and week out. I feel like that’s what I came here to do.”
According to Spotrac, Williams currently ranks fourth among free safeties with an average annual salary of $14 million which was near the top of the market at the time he signed his deal. However, in the months since, several young safeties have re-set and blown the top off the market to where he now ranks ninth among all safeties in the league in average annual salary with Derwin James of the Los Angeles Chargers at the top with an average of $19.1 million a year.
Compared to his production, Williams’ deal is already looking like a bargain for Ravens’ general manager Eric DeCosta and he’s signed through the 2026 season at that price with some increasing cap hits expected over time as the salary cap continues to increase as well.
Advice To Ravens Young Defensive Backs
Many of the Ravens’ coverage busts and breakdowns that led to big plays and touchdowns for the Dolphins were a result of youth and inexperience in the secondary. They had three rookies playing the majority of snaps in the second half with Brandon Stephens inactive and Marlon Humphrey on the sidelines for most of the fourth quarter.
Williams knows firsthand what it’s like to make a critical mistake as a young player. As a rookie in 2017, he was on the wrong end of a game-winning touchdown that is now famously referred to as the “Minnesota Miracle”. He whiffed on a tackle with less than 10 seconds left in the NFC divisional round game that sent the Minnesota Vikings to the conference title game and ended the Saints’ season.
“I’ve been in that situation before,” he said. “I’ve missed a lot of plays in my career. It’s not just being a rookie, it’s any of us. Veterans miss plays all the time, so those guys, I just talked to them and said, ‘The next play is going to be your best play. Don’t worry about them.’ You have to have a short-term memory as a DB all the time.”
Defensive backs are usually isolated one-on-one on an island or as the nearest defender so it’s often easier to point blame at them for allowing touchdowns, big plays, and key conversions.
“It’s all of us, a collective unit, and if we all help out, then we don’t have to worry about any of those guys missing plays,” Williams said.
Ravens Still Trust Kyle Hamilton
Even though the first-round safety graded well according to Pro Football Focus, many analysts directly and head coach John Harbaugh himself indirectly pointed to the former Notre Dame standout as one of the main culprits for some of the unit’s most crucial and costly lapses in coverage. However, his teammates and coaches still have faith and trust that the first-year pro and the secondary as a whole will bounce back stronger than before and learn from his previous mistakes.
“We trust him, we see him every day working hard in the film room,” Williams said. “I trust all those guys out there. We all trust each other, we lean on each other, that’s why we’re together, and it’s all about the team.”