The 49ers are keeping one of their lone bright spots from 2015 on a big five-year deal.
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Per NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, Ian Williams, one of the best 3-4 nose tackles in football last year, will remain in San Francisco. The former undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame will earn his big payday.
Williams played more snaps than the average traditional nose last year, pushing 700. He finished with a career-high 16 starts, 45 tackles and one sack. Pro Football Focus rated him one of the best run defenders in football last year, behind only names like Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Damon Harrison.
The signing gives an interesting window into the 49ers' plans on defense. Defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil came up in a 3-4 system, though some of his defensive tackles struggled to get and stay on the field in Cleveland a year ago when O'Neil held the same position with the Browns.
Williams was No. 35 on NFL.com's Top 99 free agent list partially because of his added value on passing downs. Unlike a straight traditional nose, Williams can provide some pressure and possibly remain on the field for certain third-down situations. The 49ers did not want to see him escape into an interesting market for players at the position. Damon Harrison, the former Jets nose tackle, will likely lead the way along with Terrance Knighton out of Washington. From there, the market drops off, as good nose tackles are hard to come across. San Francisco knows this, and didn't want to find out the hard way.