K’Waun Williams is the 49ers Most Important Cornerback to Re-Sign in 2021
Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, K’Waun Williams, and Jaquiski Tartt all will become unrestricted free agents at the start of the next league year. Furthermore, Emmanuel Moseley is set to become an exclusive rights free agent (ERFA).
As an ERFA, the team won’t have a hard time retaining the services of Moseley. Removing Moseley from the equation, who should the team prioritize out of Sherman, Witherspoon, and Williams?
The answer is simple: Williams. Here’s why.
Williams plays a vital position in today’s NFL -- slot corner. He also plays the position at an extremely high level. Pro Football Focus (PFF) gave Williams an overall grade of 80.3, which ranked seventh best among all qualifying corners.
Specifically looking at those in the slot, Williams ranked second behind Quinton Dunbar (87.6 overall) who played for Washington. Now Dunbar is a Seahawk, and his stint with the Seahawks may be over before it ever starts.
Dunbar and New York Giants corner Deandre Baker allegedly were involved in an armed robbery earlier this offseason. To make matters worse, word broke last week that Dunbar and Baker allegedly paid off the victims of the robbery.
With Dunbar’s season and career up in the air, strong arguments could be made that Williams is now the best slot corner in the NFL.
Last season (including playoffs), Williams generated:
- 66 combined tackles
- 2 sacks
- 5 forced fumbles
- 2 passes defensed
- 2 interceptions
Not bad for the 2014 undrafted free agent out of Pittsburgh. John Lynch deserves a lot of credit for signing Williams in 2017 after he was out of football the entire 2016 season.
Since 2017, Williams leads the entire 49ers secondary in regular-season tackles (150), tackles for loss (9), sacks (2), QB hits (5), interceptions (3), interceptions (80), and forced fumbles (6).
Quietly, Williams has been one of, if not the most consistent secondary player since Lynch, Kyle Shanahan, and Robert Saleh took over.
The 49ers should consider extending Williams now-
In the beginning weeks of the 2017 regular season, Williams signed a three-year, $8.85 million contract extension.
Williams is set to make $2.4 million this year, and will have made just under $10 million with the team by the time his current contract expires. Since signing his last contract extension, Williams has likely doubled his market value.
After not receiving much recognition last season, Williams has received a ton of attention this offseason as being the most underrated and underappreciated player on defense.
The 49ers would be wise to extend him now, before he puts together another strong season. The longer the team waits, the more leverage Williams can create for himself. And the more leverage he creates, the more likely he’ll price himself out of the 49ers budget.
When Williams hits the market, he’ll look to sign his first and possibly last big contract in the NFL. The 49ers shouldn’t let it get to that point, because once the new league year starts he’ll be salivating over what he could get on the open market.
At the age of 29, Williams has a handful of productive years ahead of him. Extending Williams for another three seasons or so would be an encouraging step towards ensuring the team’s pass defense remains one of the best in the NFL.
The 49ers should prioritize Williams over Sherman-
Williams plays a commonly cheap position. Sherman does not. Sherman has a cap hit of nearly $14 million dollars on the upcoming season. He’s the third-highest-paid corner, the fourth-highest-paid cornerback and 77th-highest-paid player in the NFL.
To put that in perspective, Williams is the 17th-highest-paid 49er, 52nd-highest-paid corner and 525th-highest-paid player in the NFL. Slot corners are paid less than outside corners, because they aren’t on the field during base downs.
Though, today’s NFL is a passing league. More often than not, team’s are in three-wide-receiver sets. It is only a matter of time until the market for slot corners goes up, simply because they’re finding themselves on the field more and more frequently. Ultimately they’re becoming more and more valuable.
Sherman is one of a handful of big names on the 49ers who are set to be free agents. In addition to Sherman, George Kittle, Trent Williams, Kyle Juszczyk, and a handful of others will be free agents come 2021.
Giving Sherman another contract, even if it is a short one, will likely make it very difficult to bring back key players such as Juszczyk.
When taking into consideration Kittle and Trent Williams, Sherman is not even a top-two priority to bring back next season. While he is still playing at an extremely high level, he will be 33 going into next season.
As long as the 49ers continue to holster an elite pass rush, they can get away with moving on from Sherman. That is all the more reason to prioritize Williams. Williams will come at a cheaper price in comparison to Sherman, and won’t jeopardize the team’s ability to bring back other key players.
This season is huge for Moseley and Witherspoon, as their play will likely dictate whether or not the team could afford to move on from Sherman. As long as Moseley continues to develop and Witherspoon shows he can be consistent, the 49ers may be happy to move forward with them starting at the outside spots.
With a lot of uncertainty surrounding key players coming back next year, having the confidence to move forward with Moseley, Witherspoon, and Williams at the corner spots would go a long way towards retaining the services of Kittle, Williams, Juszczyk and even Robbie Gould.
Extend Williams before it is too late.
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