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Bengals sign Shawn Williams to 4-year extension

The Cincinnati Bengals let veteran safety Reggie Nelson walk in free agency this season because the team trusted Shawn Williams to step into the full-time starting role.

The Bengals showed their faith in dollars Tuesday.

The team announced they signed Williams to a four-year contract extension through 2020. The deal is worth $19.5 million in base salary, and Williams can earn $21.5 million with incentives, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source involved in the deal. The third-round pick in 2013 was entering the final year of his rookie deal.

"Shawn is one of our bright, young players, and we're excited to have him as part of the team moving forward," coach Marvin Lewis said in a statement. "He has been a physical player, and he has increased his value as a playmaker on the ball. This is just one more part of our plan, which is to draft the right players, develop them and retain them."

Williams started just four games in his career behind Nelson. Now the team has faith he'll step in opposite George Iloka without missing a beat.

Inking Williams to a new deal before he hits the open market where his price could increase if he puts up a stellar season as a starter is a smart move by Cincinnati's front office.

The Bengals have taken a lot of heat during Lewis' tenure for not winning playoff games, but they have been one of the best franchises in the NFL at building and maintaining their own talent over the last half decade. Locking down a rising starter in Williams is just the latest example.

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