Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Free Agent Profile: Cary Williams, Baltimore Ravens

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Baltimore Ravens cornerback Cary Williams (29) is congratulated after scoring a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns Mandatory Credit: ©Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

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The Buccaneers pass defense was really, really bad in 2012.

Luckily, the NFL is a league where a team is never more than an offseason away from totally revamping even large sections of their team and making investments that pay immediate dividends. Look at the 2012 Indianapolis Colts as Exhibit A of a franchise that was able to rebuild in just one offseason, bringing in a very large amount of free agents and filling needs with impact players. The Buccaneers have a very strong core, with Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, and Mark Barron providing a backbone for a potentially strong defense. However, the pass coverage and pass rush were lacking in 2012, and it proved to be the Buccaneers Achilles heel.

Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Part of the problem was Eric Wright’s achilles and heel, literally. Another part of the problem was Aqib Talib’s literary version of an Achilles heel, his off the field concerns, and he finally earned his way out of town. Wright is likely out of a job at One Buc Place, or at the very least out of his enormous contract that no longer has guaranteed money left to pay. That means that the Buccaneers are left with very little proven talent at the cornerback position, and while some of the players who filled in for the departed Talib and injured Wright had moments of brilliance, there is no doubt that the Buccaneers will be looking to reinforce this position and try to turn it into a strength in 2013.

So, who is available? One possible option we’ll take a look at today is Cary Williams. Williams’ name might be familiar to you if you watched the AFC Championship game, as he was the guy who put the final nail in the Patriots’ coffin with his fourth quarter interception. Missed the play, or forgot it already? Check it out by clicking here.

Williams didn’t do much of anything special on that play, he was really just in the right place at the right time. But Cary has proven to be a very valuable piece of the Ravens defense. His contract is over after this season, and while he could certainly wind up back in Baltimore, there is the possibility that he hits the open market. The fifth year man out of Washburn University (Go Ichabods!) would command a big paycheck, but that’s something the Buccaneers will have to offer. In fact, if the Buccaneers do let go of Eric Wright, they have his entire salary to offer to a younger, more dependable player.

So what’s so special about Cary Williams? The Ravens cornerback is 6 feet, 1 inch tall and weighs 190 pounds. This is pretty impressive size for a cornerback, and means he matches up well with most wide receivers. He also puts his size to good use, and is known as a strong cornerback, able to hold up against physical wide receivers. Most importantly, he is a capable of tackling, and shows the willingness to contribute in the defense of the run game. This is a very important trait to consider in potential Buccaneer cornerbacks, as the defensive scheme will dictate that they’ll need to be able to hold their own in one-on-one against the run or pass in some instances. Williams also has excellent closing speed. Check out this clip from earlier this season to see exactly what I’m talking about.

He was very highly targeted in 2011, as teams considered him the weakest defender on the Ravens’ defense. This is a positive, as he was still able to get a “stop” (defined by Football Outsiders as preventing the offense from getting a successful amount of yards on a given play) about as often as Aqib Talib did in his first two years in the NFL. The advanced statistics from the Outsiders are not out for 2012 just yet, but Williams has almost certainly improved. Advanced NFL Stat’s website has Williams as one of the top 15 corners in “successful plays”, or tackles, passes defended, or other impact plays that keep the offense from increasing its chances of winning. Check out their advanced defensive back stats here.

Overall, I believe that the Buccaneers should break the bank for Williams. He’s an up and coming star in the NFL with very few miles on his legs. He’s the young, athletic, strong corner that could flourish in Coach Schiano’s hard hitting defense. If he hits the open market, I expect to see the Buccaneers making Williams an offer. I can only hope he winds up in Tampa Bay to help build the Buccaneers defense back up to the standards of 10 years ago, when the Bucs and Ravens were dueling it out as the best defenses in the league.

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