Niners agree to deal with play-making safety

The 49ers have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with play-making veteran free agent Chad Williams, and that could steer the team away from selecting a safety on Day 2 of the NFL draft.

The Niners did not announce the transaction during a busy Saturday because, as coach Mike Nolan said, "I've gotten caught up in the draft a little bit." But SFI has learned the deal will be announced either Sunday or Monday, perhaps to keep other NFL teams guessing about San Francisco's intentions with its early second-day selections.

When SFI asked Nolan late Saturday if Williams would be signed by the team, he responded, "I don't know exactly where we are at with that other than to tell you that it looks good. It might look real good by Monday. We'll see. That's about as far as I can go on that."

Williams was one of four sixth-round draft picks by the Baltimore Ravens in 2002 and played under Nolan when the latter was Baltimore's defensive coordinator from 2002-2004. Nolan got a close look at Williams' play-making ability during that span, when the 5-foot-9, 207 sparkplug saw extensive action in the Baltimore secondary and played in every game during those three years.

Williams returned an interception for a touchdown in each of his first three NFL seasons, and he comes to San Francisco with eight career interceptions that he returned 320 yards – a 40-yard average. Included in those totals was a 98-yard interception return for a TD in 2002, a 52-yard TD return in 2003, a 44-yard TD return in 2004 and a 94-yard return in 2004 that was stopped just short of a touchdown.

Williams also has 154 tackles in 64 career games to go along with five forced fumbles and four recovered fumbles. He also has 4.5 career sacks.

When asked if Williams was a candidate to fill the team's starting void at safety opposite Tony Parrish, Nolan said, "Possibly. I know that Chad is a very good third-down player and he wants to compete on the every-down basis as well."

Williams arrives in San Francisco as veteran insurance at safety, where he saw starting action last year with the Ravens in place of both Ed Reed and Will Demps. He will be given an opportunity to battle for a starting position whether the team drafts a safety prospect or not on Sunday. He also is a special teams ace, recording 17 special teams tackles and blocking a punt as a rookie.

"He's an outstanding football player," Nolan said. "He's one of those guys that we got in the second day (of the draft) four years ago in Baltimore. He's a little on the short side, but we called him Pound-for-Pound in Baltimore. Because, pound for pound, he was about one of the best football players around. He was instrumental in the things we did there. He's a good football player. That's the key."

Nolan went on to say that Williams could be a fifth or sixth defensive back in some of San Francisco's secondary coverage packages and "would compete for one of the starting safety positions as well right now."

The coach added that players such as Williams are the kind of nuggets teams hope to find in the later rounds on Day 2 of the draft.

"If you can do the second day as good as a player like that," Nolan said, "You've done a hell of a job."

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