The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up the 2017 season and have begun their work to prepare for 2018 free agency and the draft. We’ll be breaking down plenty of what that means, but in the meantime, we wanted to take a look back at the season that was for the 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo capture our imagination, but the 49ers rebuilding process was extensive last year. We are going to take a look at every notable addition and provide a forum for grading how that signing, trade, or draft pick worked out.
How acquired: Signed one-year, $690,000 contract
The new regime got going before full free agency even began last year. The first free agent signing of the offseason came in the former of nickel back K’Waun Williams. The Cleveland Browns had released him in August 2016 amidst a dispute over an ankle injury.
Williams spent the 2016 season rehabbing the injury following surgery, and then made the rounds in free agency after the Super Bowl. He was free to sign before the normal free agency period because he had been released. He visited with the Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets, and actually received a contract offer from the Jets. However, after a visit with the 49ers, he signed a one-year contract.
The initial thought was Williams would compete with Will Redmond and Keith Reaser for nickel and dime work. However, Williams emerged ahead of both on the depth chart and claimed the starting job for the season.
It did not take long for him to impress the coaching staff and front office. The 49ers announced on September 29 that they had signed him to a three-year contract extension. The deal is worth up to $10 million. Not too shabby after only three games!
Williams finished the season with five pass deflections and one interception, to go along with 54 total tackles. He was solid in pass coverage, but I felt he really stood out in run defense. You don’t want cornerbacks regularly facing run stopping opportunities, but it felt like Williams was regularly making stops, as opposed to getting to a running back after several yards already gained. He showed a willingness to get in there and do the dirty work that comes with run defense for defensive backs.
Looking ahead to 2018, the 49ers cornerback depth chart will see some big changes this offseason. Ahkello Witherspoon will start at one spot, and the team could draft or sign a high profile option for the other starting role. The nickel back is viewed as a reserve in many instances, but with teams spending more time in sub-packages, nickel and dime are the new base. Williams will face competition for his nickel back role, but after this past season, it’s hard to see him losing his starting job.
How do you grade the K’Waun Williams signing?
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