One of the unexpected questions that arose this offseason is the status of defensive tackle Ian Williams. On March 9, reports emerged that he had agreed to terms on a five-year contract extension. We didn't hear an official confirmation, and then 12 days later, a report emerged suggesting ankle concerns had resulted in a new one-year contract.
It turns out Williams had multiple surgeries on his ankle. He had dealt with ankle injuries in prior years, but in 2015, Williams played all 16 games. The 49ers were made aware of the surgeries, and that resulted in a one-year contract that was loaded with incentives and bonuses. Williams has a $1 million base salary. The deal then includes $2 million in roster bonuses, paid out $125,000 per game he is active. The deal includes another $1 million in incentives.
Earlier this week, James Brady wrote an article for SBNation.com looking at five players who have one year to prove they're worth big money. The list includes Dolphins defensive end Jason Jones, Vikings offensive tackle Andre Smith, Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley, Packers linebacker Nick Perry, and Packers tight end Jared Cook.
Four of those five players signed a one-year deal with a new team, with Perry the only one returning to his previous team. Those deals are less about injuries, and more about players who never developed like their drafting team hoped. Williams does not fall in that category, but his one-year deal is a big-time prove it deal. Although he seemingly stayed healthy last season, injuries have been an issue throughout his football career. He suffered an MCL tear his final season at Notre Dame. He broke his ankle in 2013, and suffered a fracture in his leg in 2014.
If Williams stays healthy the full year, it will be interesting to see what kind of deal he gets in free agency. He was reportedly set to receive $5 million to $6 million per year with the five-year deal. Given the surgeries, it would not surprise me if he is unable to get many multi-year offers. I could see him landing a deal for three or four years, but the ankle issues will be firmly on the radar, even if he plays this whole season. And considering there is a chance he is unable to go Week 1, I would not be optimistic he gets a particularly big contract as a free agent.