Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but you get the idea.
The San Francisco 49ers were incredibly busy during free agency in March and April, and it is easy to forget that they got the ball rolling before unrestricted free agency began. Players released before the start of the new league year can sign with anybody right away, and the 49ers very first transaction involved one such player, cornerback K’Waun Williams.
The first signing of the John Lynch/Kyle Shanahan era will come in and compete for the team’s nickel back role. Williams joined the team after spending two seasons with the Cleveland Browns after entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2014. Williams developed into a solid nickel back for the Browns, but then 2016 happened.
Williams suffered an ankle injury in training camp, and it resulted in a feud with the team. They did not think the injury was as bad as Williams thought. The Browns released him and the Chicago Bears claimed him off waivers. However, he failed a physical in Chicago, which negated the move. He became a free agent and subsequently had surgery on the ankle. By all accounts, the ankle is good to go at this point.
In two seasons with the Browns, Williams appeared in 26 games (10 starts) and registering 69 tackles, 10 passes defensed, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 2.0 sacks.
Age: 25 (26 on July 12)
Experience: 2 accrued seasons
Weight: 183 lbs
Signed one-year, $765,000 contract prior to the start of free agency. Received a $75,000 signing bonus, and can earn a $75,000 bonus if he is on the Week 1 roster.
Why he might improve in 2017
Considering Williams sat out 2016 with an ankle injury, there’s nowhere to go but up! He’s still sufficiently young that he should not “lose a step” at this point in his career. Pro Football Focus recently ranked out 2014 rookies based on yards per coverage snap between 2014 and 2016. Williams ranked fourth. He did not play in 2016, but it indicates a strong first two years to build on. And considering he was the 49ers first free agent addition, it would seem to bode well for what the team thinks he can provide.
Why he might regress in 2017
Missing a season is not a good thing. Plenty of players do bounce back after missing a full year with injury, but it will be interesting to see how he looks at first contact in the preseason.
Odds of making the roster
Being the first signing does not guarantee anything, especially given how little guaranteed money is involved. But the competition at nickel back could be intriguing. Will Redmond was drafted to be a nickel back, but missed 2016 recovering from his ACL injury. Keith Reaser will be in the competition there, as well as outside corner with Rashard Robinson and Ahkello Witherspoon.
So, two of the potentially three or more competitors for the nickel role sat out the 2016 season due to injury. That certainly raises some questions about how the competition will shake out. Williams seems like a strong bet to make the roster, but far from a certainty. I’d say somewhere in the 65-75 percent range, give or take.