Former New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams has finally found the long-term deal he’s been looking for. Just a couple weeks ago, the star free safety signed a five-year, $70 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens after spending his first five NFL seasons in the bayou. It was the largest contract handed out to a safety this offseason, and for good reason.
Williams, who was selected by the Saints in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Utah, is one of seven NFL players to record 15-plus interceptions, 35-plus passes defensed and 300-plus tackles since 2017. The Saints placed the franchise tag on him last offseason, and Williams responded with a career-high 74 combined tackles, eight passes defensed and two interceptions. If it wasn’t from New Orleans, he was going to get his money from somewhere.
This week, Williams sat down with CBS Sports to discuss what free agency was like, how last offseason for him compared to this offseason and why he chose the Ravens. Having put pen to paper just two weeks ago, his excitement for the future hasn’t waned.
“It feels great,” Williams said about signing his big deal. “It’s definitely a great opportunity, it’s definitely exciting to be able to be a part of this organization that I’m going to and I’m just ready to get to work.”
Since Williams was franchise tagged last offseason, this past month was his first true free agency experience.
“It was definitely a different experience not really knowing what’s going to happen, it’s basically the unknown,” Williams said of free agency. “So not knowing where I’m going to be at, if I’m going to sign back with the Saints, if I’m going to another team, if I’m going to test the market, so it definitely was a different experience. It’s kind of like starting all over from the beginning.”
While Williams faced some unknowns the past two offseasons, he said this time around was better since he had a chance to go out and explore his options. Having the franchise tag placed on him last offseason just led to more questions.
“I think it’s exciting,” Williams said about the free agency process. “Last year I wasn’t able to really know (about my future). Being franchise-tagged, it was still unknown. Are they going to sign me back? Am I going to play on the tag? After a while you’re just like, ‘OK, let me just worry about what I can control,’ and all I can control is me playing on the field. So this year, I went into free agency and we’re here now. It’s definitely a great thing for me right now.”
Williams said that his camp did have talks with the Saints about an extension, but after his agent and the team couldn’t agree to a new deal early in the offseason, that’s when it became clear he would be playing for a different team in 2022.
“Shoot, I mean pretty much the first day of free agency,” Williams said when asked when he knew he wouldn’t be back with the Saints. “Once they try to give you the offer and stuff — and we may not come to terms on things like that. Then you kind of know. But we negotiated and we talked, and you see what’s going on. You see where their head’s at, see where your head’s at. That’s kind of the process for everybody who goes through free agency.”
Williams said that he was attracted to the Ravens franchise because of the culture they have established in Baltimore. They are tough, known for their defense and are a threat to win any given Sunday.
“Just the culture,” Williams said when asked why he chose the Ravens. “There’s just a culture there and over the years you can see what type of history they have from their past greats to the team that they have now, they have a lot of great players, a lot of great talents and you can see the coaching staff, they do a good job of putting this group together. It was definitely something I wanted to be a part of. I wanted to bring my talents there and just help contribute to this type of culture that they have.
“I’m just excited just to be here. It’s definitely something that a lot of kids wish for, to just play in this type of organization. You see the Ed Reeds, you see the Ray Lewises come through here and you’re like, ‘OK, they built legacies. Now I want to go there and build my own legacy apart from what they already have.’ I’m just excited to get to work with those guys back there on the defense and see where this year takes us.”
As for what Ravens fans are getting in Williams, he says Baltimore is getting a leader willing to do anything for his team.
“Tough, nasty ballhawk. I’m relentless, I’m around every play,” Williams said. “I’m gonna be in the film. I’m willing to come in there and take the ball away, do what I have to do to provide for the team. I’m never too big to listen to anybody, I’m a great communicator, I talk, I listen. I’m not the most vocal person, but I am the person who tries to do it right all the time, because that’s just the type of person I am.”