Looks like K’Waun Williams will be bolstering someone’s secondary in 2022, but it won’t be the San Francisco 49ers.
The free agent nickelback, long considered a key free agent priority for the 49ers during this March free agency cycle, is closing in on signing with the Denver Broncos, which was first reported by Mike Kaye of the Pro Football Network on Tuesday, March 22.
And details of Williams’ deal? A two-year contract worth up to $7 million, according to Kaye.
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Williams’ Value & Presence on the 49ers
Williams spent four seasons with the 49ers but established himself as a prominent nickelback option.
In his last two seasons in the Bay, Williams swatted four passes and delivered a combined 74 tackles including 57 solo stops. He also delivered four interceptions in his five seasons with the 49ers, per Pro Football Reference.
Pro Football Focus listed Williams as the 108th best free agent available in their March 16 rankings, citing his ability to play top-down in zone coverage and shoot through gaps in the run game as his primary strengths.
“You don’t want Williams in a defense consistently asking him to stick with receivers in single coverage, but he’s an effective slot option in a zone-heavy defense that asks him to get downhill on underneath passes and be an above-average run defender for his position,” PFF wrote.
Insider Shares Why Williams Wasn’t Re-Signed
While Williams was considered a potential boost for next season’s secondary by some had he re-signed with the team, one 49ers reporter and insider thought otherwise.
David Lombardi of The Athletic revealed why the 49ers opted not to lure Williams back in.
“Why didn’t 49ers prioritize re-signing K’Waun Williams? They’re looking to get younger at nickel while integrating new talent. It’s possible that we see a CB rotation that features Emmanuel Moseley kicking inside for nickel packages and Ambry Thomas opposite Charvarius Ward,” Lombardi tweeted.
Lombardi also addressed what the 49ers could plan to do with Williams’ old spot moving forward.
“That being said, I would expect the 49ers to use at least one of their nine draft picks on the defensive backfield — possibly to bolster their options at that nickelback spot. Deommodore Lenoir also still has a chance to emerge at that position,” Lombardi wrote.
And he noted that Williams is receiving a “pay raise” in the deal.
Cornerback has been widely discussed among 49ers fans as a critical position to address in the April NFL draft. Now with Williams on the move to the Rocky Mountains, perhaps the franchise will address that need early with the crop of cornerback options available — especially those who look appealing to help fill Williams’ old nickel role. Names like Kyler Gordon of the University of Washington, Cam Taylor-Britt of Nebraska and Tariq Woolen of the University of Texas-San Antonio are potential options should the 49ers pivot to the draft.
As for the 30-year-old Williams, he will be heading toward a place that not only has Russell Wilson as the incoming starting quarterback, but he’ll soon rejoin his former 49er teammates D.J. Jones and Tom Compton in the Rocky Mountains.