The departures of Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois make the San Francisco 49ers re-signing nose tackle Ian Williams especially crucial this offseason. Recent free-agent acquisition Glenn Dorsey certainly could play that position but Williams may be a more natural fit and allow Dorsey to relieve 3-4 ends Justin Smith and Ray McDonald more often.
“We are very pleased to extend the contract of a young, talented player like Ian,” general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. “He will have the opportunity to continue to grow in our defense, and we look forward to his future development.”
Williams joined the Niners as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame in 2011 and has since compiled mediocre grades from Pro Football Focus in his limited experience at the NFL level. His 39 snaps give us an extremely small sample but his 6-1, 320-pound frame and brute strength leave some optimism of his ability to fill in at the nose, including his time doing so in the Fighting Irish 3-4.
Still, it’s hard to rely too much on an undrafted free agent who’s occupied the edge of the bench for two years. Fortunately for the 49ers and Vic Fangio‘s defense, they use the nickel a high majority of the time and will often sub out the nose tackle for Chris Culliver or Nnamdi Asomugha anyways. Look for Williams to see an uptick in snaps this year thanks to free-agent departures but — barring injury — still sit way behind Smith, McDonald and even Dorsey in playing time.