The Baltimore Ravens lost Marcus Williams to injury in Week 1’s victory over the Houston Texans. The veteran safety was one of a host of household names that fell victim to the injury bug for Baltimore. J.K. Dobbins’ Achilles tear has ruled him out for the season while Ronnie Stanley and Tyler Linderbaum remain week-to-week.
Williams suffered a pectoral injury. It remains to be seen how long he will be out, with coach John Harbaugh remaining coy on the matter. However, the injury is a long-term one.
With their first-string safety unavailable for the foreseeable future, how will Defensive Coordinator Mike MacDonald and the Ravens cope with his absence?
Marcus Williams “Out a While”, How Will The Ravens Manage in Light of His Injury?
The Injury and Recovery Timeline
Williams is now set to miss time in two consecutive seasons for the Ravens. He seemed an excellent pickup from the New Orleans Saints two off-seasons ago, but his lack of availability has left him unable to break into the upper echelons of safety rankings so far.
As it stands, it is unclear how long Williams will be out for. Harbaugh has mentioned that Williams has different options regarding surgery and recovery. The assumption is that Williams’ different options will result in different timelines for return.
"Marcus Williams has a pec injury. May not be a season ender though." pic.twitter.com/Z6ndxONxBN
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 11, 2023
Two Options for Ravens Amid Marcus Williams Injury
Needless to say, Williams’ timeline for return will impact how the Ravens approach his absence. If he misses the season, contrary to the hypothetical Harbaugh suggested, it may be worth Eric DeCosta stepping in to find his replacement. The free agent safeties are not the most appealing group, but some good depth could be found. Alternatively, a trade for a starting calibre safety could be made.
Option A: Look at External Candidates
While the Ravens have already signed Duron Harmon to the practice squad, the 32-year-old is certainly not an ideal option to rely on. As such, DeCosta could look to make a move, whether that be in free agency or via trade.
Free agency is the less appealing option here. The best remaining free agent safeties are Logan Ryan, Andrew Adams, P.J. Williams and Landon Collins. While Ryan and Collins are recognizable names, it is fair to say that they no longer offer as much as they used to. Of the list, none of the candidates really improve the current Ravens safety group much.
A trade, then, could be better. This would likely only happen if Baltimore knew that Williams would miss most, or all, of 2023. A trade would put Baltimore in a sticky position this off-season if they have four highly-valued safeties.
Either way, a team looking to win it all must put all their chips in. A trade, then, might not be the most implausible thing to happen. DeCosta made a splash move prior to last year’s trade deadline as he brought in Roquan Smith. Could he do it again?
If Baltimore do opt to make a trade, they are best off grabbing someone with slot versatility. This way, if Williams returns, their new arrival will still serve a purpose in the team despite the presences of Williams, Geno Stone and Kyle Hamilton.
Option B: Trust the Depth
The likelier option is for Baltimore to roll with their current safeties. With the cornerback room remaining thin, any cap room or trade assets may be focused there. As such, the team may opt to trust their safety depth.
This would not be a bad option either. Granted, Williams is an excellent player and, on his day, is one of Baltimore’s best defensive playmakers. However, a pairing of Hamilton and Stone is not to be scoffed at. With no new additions ahead of Week 2’s fixture at the Cincinnati Bengals, Hamilton and Stone will face a trial by fire against Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd.
Hamilton’s NFL journey has been well documented so far. The Swiss army knife struggled early as a rookie but soon found a home as the team’s slot cornerback. This year, MacDonald is expected to use Hamilton as more of a versatile piece.
Stone, meanwhile, has had a very different NFL journey. Despite his seventh-round draft status, he has cemented himself as a key contributor. This led to him receiving a respectable extension this off-season.
There remains an issue, however. If Hamilton is shoehorned into playing safety, who will cover at slot corner? The long-term answer might be Ronald Darby. However, he is currently filling in for the absent Marlon Humphrey. Another defensive back must step up. The versatility of Kevon Seymour, Brandon Stephens and Ar’Darius Washington could provide the short-term solution here.
And, what if MacDonald elects to use Hamilton in other positions, thus leaving safety free? As it stands, the third safety is likely to be Daryl Worley. He would be able to fill in for a pinch.
Hamilton and Stone present the answer for Ravens amid Williams’ injury. However, for the defense to continue to enjoy success in the defensive backfield, they will need a rotation of depth players to step up in the third safety and slot corner positions.
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