Coming into the offseason, one area of focus for the San Francisco 49ers was the secondary. The Niners had nine players from the group up for free agency, but general manager John Lynch was able to lock up four key pieces.
One of those pieces is slot corner K’Waun Williams, who agreed to return to the team on a one-year deal worth $2.3 million. The 29-year-old played in eight games last season, racking up 22 tackles (five for a loss), four passes defended, two sacks and two QB hits.
It looked like Williams’ days with the organization would come to an end, but he looked around the league and decided he wanted to run it back with his teammates after an injury-riddled season.
“All the deals were pretty similar, at the time,” Williams said during his recent media availability. “I just chose the Niners. I couldn’t deny playing with some of my teammates. In our secondary, we’ve got Jimmie [Ward], Jaquiski [Tartt], we’ve got Jason [Verrett], all those guys. Just being able to play one more year with those guys was just too intriguing to me.”
His teammates continued to recruit him throughout the process, keeping in constant contact with Williams while other teams courted him. Williams says he knew how bad the other members of the secondary wanted him to return for the 2021 campaign.
“It was vital to the process. They always asked me to keep them posted on what was going on with the visits and how free agency was going,” Williams said. “Ultimately, they wanted me to make a decision that was best for me but deep down inside; they wanted me to come back to the Niners and just do it one more year with them.”
Williams was used in the blitz frequently by former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. His versatility made him a valuable piece of the 49ers’ defense. Saleh is now the head coach of the New York Jets and was replaced by former linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans.
Williams says he isn’t quite sure yet how he will be used in Ryans’ scheme, but he is ready to do whatever the new defensive coordinator asks of him.
“Whatever DeMeco asks of me, I’m ready,” Williams said. “I’ve still got a lot more room to develop as a leader on a team, and that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.”
Next season will be with Williams’ fifth with San Francisco. He originally signed a one-year deal with the Niners before the 2017 season.
Williams’ best season came in 2019 when he finished with 51 tackles, two interceptions, two passes defended and a sack. Pro Football Focus gave him a 77.2 grade in 2019 and named Williams and Richard Sherman as the best cornerback duo in the league that season.
The 49ers came within minutes of winning the Super Bowl but came up short against the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that recruited Williams during free agency, a memory he didn’t want to rehash when he visited the team.
“Overall, it was a cool visit and everything,” Williams said. “Besides that, I don’t want to bring up the Lombardi anymore.”