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Ravens CB Williams mounts impressive salary drive

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Ravens CB Williams mounts impressive salary drive

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) It was with no small amount of angst that cornerback Cary Williams declined a $15 million, three-year offer from the Baltimore Ravens during the past offseason.

Williams thought he was worth more. And lately, it's looking like he might be right.

After playing in 42 NFL games without an interception, Williams has picked off four passes in his last five games. He leads the AFC in interceptions, and his efficient play has taken some of the sting out of the loss of injured cornerback Lardarius Webb.

``He's a guy that I really believe in,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Williams. ``Cary is a competitor. Cary is a fighter. Cary wants to do well so badly, and he's kind of an emotional guy. That's one of the things that I love about him.''

Williams, 27, took a rather unconventional route to the Baltimore defensive backfield - beginning with his trip out of Liberty City, the Florida neighborhood where he was born and raised.

``It's one of the murder capitals in the world. It's dark and there's not a lot of hope,'' Williams said Wednesday. ``You see people getting killed, friends dying over drugs and gang violence. It's a struggle to get through.''

Williams then played two seasons at Fordham and two at Washburn University in Kansas before being selected in the seventh round of the 2008 draft by Tennessee.

He spent the majority of his first season on the Titans' practice squad before being signed by the Ravens in late November 2009. After first being used almost exclusively on special teams, Williams started all 16 games last year.

In August, he spurned Baltimore's three-year contract offer, taking the chance that he will be worth more to the Ravens - or another team - next year.

``I felt like I was worth more. I felt like I brought a lot of the table,'' Williams said. ``There were a lot of third (string) corners that were getting more than that. In my eyes, I felt like I deserved a lot better. I think I played up to that billing thus far in the season.''

Lately, yes he has. Not so much in September, especially in a game against New England in which Tom Brady repeatedly picked on Williams instead of throwing on Webb's side of the field.

Brady ``made me a better player,'' Williams said. ``I'm not perfect. Some days, guys are going to have better games than you. I understand that's part of growing up, I'm a younger guy. I haven't had much game experience until last season. I want to put my best foot forward. Fortunately for me, I've been doing it the last few weeks.''

The trend started immediately after the New England game, when Williams took his first NFL interception 63 yards for a touchdown in a 23-16 win over Cleveland. He followed that with pickoffs against Kansas City and Dallas, then came up empty at Houston before intercepting a pass last weekend in Cleveland.

Williams hopes to keep the momentum going Sunday when the Ravens (6-2) host Oakland (3-5).

``People can say it's the contract negotiations or he's going into his last year, whatever, but Cary is a focused football player,'' Ravens safety Bernard Pollard said. ``People have said all sorts of crazy things about him, people have dogged him, but nobody understands that he's his worst critic. We're his worst critic. We want greatness from everybody.''

Williams isn't motivated by money. He wants to be an exceptional football player, and if he achieves that goal he will be paid accordingly.

``Fifteen million dollars is a great deal and it's a wonderful opportunity,'' he said. ``But at the end of the day, my scope has never been small. I take that from days I grew up in Liberty City. I want to continue to strive for more and greater things.''

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Ravens mock draft roundup: Mike Williams continues to pop up

Ravens mock draft roundup: Mike Williams continues to pop up

Just over a month away from the NFL Draft, mock drafts across sport media sites are beginning to narrow in on players that fit specifically into blaring holes on a team's roster.

As the first wave of free agency has come through, a majority of the top names at each position has been snatched up. While the Baltimore Ravens can still sign a handful of free agents on the open market, getting backup or a young star in a key position can be a the primary goal. 

Here's a look at who some of the various analysts have the Ravens taking with their No. 16 pick in the first round. The general consensus is help in the defensive secondary and at the wide receiver position.

DE Taco Charlton, Michigan, Ben Standig, CSN-Mid Atlantic

Standing: At some point the Ravens must find an edge pass rushing replacement for Terrell Suggs. Charlton might be better stopping the run than rushing the passer right now and yet he had nine sacks in 10 regular season games.  

SEE STANDIG'S FULL 2017 MOCK DRAFT

SS Jabrill Peppers, Michigan, Rob Rang, CBS Sports

Rang: With starting safety Matt Elam a pending free agent and Eric Weddle poised to enter his 11th NFL season, the Ravens may very well be looking for help in the secondary in the 2017 draft. Peppers starred as a linebacker in 2016 but possesses the agility and speed to handle coverage.

WR Mike Williams, Clemson, Dane Brugler, CBS Sports

Brugler: The Ravens have plenty of speed at receiver, but only average size. Williams has only average speed, but his body control, catch radius and overall size are where he shines.

WR John Ross, Washington, Bucky Brooks, NFL.com

Brooks: An electric playmaker with speed to burn would be a welcome addition to an offense that wants to play long ball with Joe Flacco at quarterback.

DE Charles Harris, Missouri, Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com

Jeremiah: Harris is a very productive edge rusher who is plenty athletic enough to drop in coverage if needed.

WR Mike Williams, Clemson, Chris Burke, SI.com

Burke: Baltimore has two receivers, Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman, who can scorch defenses deep. They need a physical, intermediate threat. Check.

CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama, Peter Schragers, FOX Sports

Schragers: I seem to be a lot higher on Humphrey than other mock draft pundits. Oh well. I’ll ride with the star of the Alabama defensive backfield from last season. The son of NFL running back Bobby Humphrey, he was a stud at the well-known Hoover High and a prime recruit of Nick Saban’s. An opportunistic player who started for two seasons in Tuscaloosa, Humphrey forced three fumbles and intercepted two passes in 2016. Baltimore already has added Brandon Carr and Tony Jefferson to its defensive backfield but might not be done.

RELATED: REDSKINS MOCK DRAFT ROUNDUP

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Ravens' Tony Jefferson used Madden to help make free agent decision

Ravens' Tony Jefferson used Madden to help make free agent decision

The Ravens' newly signed Safety Tony Jefferson had some interesting criteria when it came to choosing which team he would sign with during free agency.

The 25-year-old former Cardinals defensive back was a hot prospect on the market this off season. He signed a four-year deal worth $34 million with $19 million guaranteed on the first day of free agency. He had an offer from the Browns for more money but told NFL Network that he didn’t take the offer simply because “ I don’t play football for money.”

Other important criteria when it came to picking a team? What uniform looked best on Jefferson, and to see which one looked best on him he used Madden. He told NFL Media:

“I am a guy of swagger, so I gotta check the swag at all points before I make a decision. I put myself in different uniforms on Madden to see what will look better. Ravens did look good, though.”

His favorite uniform combination of the Ravens? Black on black.

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 6.0

Jefferson mentioned to NFL Media that fellow Ravens Safety Eric Weddle reached out and sold him on signing with the team. The demeanor of head coach John Harbaugh and how the Ravens run their front office also helped him make his decision.   

“ [Ravens coach John Harbaugh is an] exciting dude. He talks to his players, and Eric was telling me that the coaching staff and front office guys aren't like other front offices. They actually enjoy being with their players and talking to them and let you be who you are. Just stay in the confines of the organization and don't draw any negative attention.”