The San Francisco 49ers signed free agent cornerback K’Waun Williams to a one-year deal, and there is plenty to unpackage from this. The 49ers have not formally announced the deal yet, but we will hear something in the coming days.
Williams was released by the Cleveland Browns last summer, and was free to sign anywhere. He had been released due to a dispute over an ankle injury. He was claimed by the Chicago Bears, but failed his physical. He has since been rehabbing following surgery, and was medically cleared last month.
I took a few minutes to chat with Chris Pokorny from our Browns blog, Dawgs By Nature. Williams surprised people by claiming a starting role as a rookie. He worked in the nickel, and it sounds like he was a solid asset in the secondary. However, he suffered an ankle injury last August, and that led to problems between Williams and the Browns. They claimed it was not as big a problem, but Williams eventually had surgery and filed a grievance to get the Browns to pay for it after they released him.
Pokorny offered his thoughts on some of that weirdness that went down, as well as what Williams brought to the table when healthy. Pokorny notes some confusion about Williams’ status last August, with some thoughts that he was considering retirement. it is worth noting that Williams had surgery on his ankle and failed a physical when the Bears claimed him.
When K'Waun Williams made the Browns' roster in 2014, it was perplexing because he was an undrafted free agent who had been sidelined most of camp. Working with the dreaded Jim O'Neil from 2014-2015, Williams was immediately penciled in as the team's nickel back and thrived from day one. Although he flirted with some work as an outside cornerback due to injuries on the roster, the reason he drew so much interest is the fact that for two years, he was one of the better nickel backs in the NFL. That doesn't mean he was a Pro Bowl caliber player, but you never had to worry about the position being a liability.
I don't know what the heck happened in 2016. Everyone thought he would be the nickel back again, but then after the first preseason game, a bunch of varying rumors came out about him. One said that he told people he was going to retire, and another said he had an ankle injury and took himself out despite the coaching staff believing he could play through it. Bridges were burned and he was released, but it was never a case of his talent diminishing.
One big concern is the fact that he suffered three concussions in the span of a year during his first two seasons in the league. All things considered, though, the 49ers added a guy who should be an immediate contributor on defense.