Niners Take Care of Ian Williams to Start Free-Agent Season

Nose tackle, coming off best season, agrees to five-year deal to stay with San Francisco

While many teams across the NFL were making bold moves in free agency Tuesday, the 49ers were relatively quiet.

Before venturing out into the free-agent pool, the 49ers chose to take care of some in-home business.

But, it was important business, even if it wasn’t as exciting as the Raiders’ landing offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele or defensive end Mario Williams going to the Dolphins.

Nose tackle Ian Williams, who was coming off a solid season on a less-than-solid defense, agreed to a new five-year deal with the 49ers, according to NFL reporter Adam Schefter.

Williams will be a huge factor for the 49ers defense in 2016. He’s still just 26, yet has been with San Francisco five seasons, since signing as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame in 2011. He’s battled numerous injuries in his short career, but finally was able to play 16 games in 2015 and showed he can be a force in the center of the defensive line, coming up with a career-high 65 tackles. He also had a sack, a fumble recovery, forced fumble and blocked a kick.

Plus, as Paul Gutierrez of noted, “Williams is well-respected in the locker room, being voted one of nine team captains last year despite having just nine career starts at the time.”

The analytics website Pro Football Focus put Williams No. 1 on the 49ers’ list of must-sign own free agents. Wrote PFF’s Nathan Jahnke: “It’s rare to see a team break the bank for a two-down nose tackle, but in this case it’s worth it.”

Jahnke noted that Williams was one of the NFL’s best interior defensive linemen in run-stop percentage and grades as an average pass rusher – a plus for a nose tackle.

In addition, the 49ers tendered one-year contract offers to a pair of restricted free agents,  inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite and guard Jordan Devey Tuesday, and signed linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong to a contract extension. Armstrong had been picked up late in the 2015 season after being claimed off waivers from the Raiders.

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