The San Francisco 49ers, who did not address their safety needs until the final two rounds of last weekend's draft, on Wednesday afternoon secured a veteran reinforcement for the position by signing unrestricted free agent Chad Williams.
A four-year veteran, Williams had played his entire career with the Baltimore Ravens, who chose him in the sixth round of the 2002 draft.
Although not blessed with prototype size for the safety position (5-feet-9, 207 pounds), Williams is an explosive hitter with deceptively good range. San Francisco head coach Mike Nolan was the defensive coordinator in Baltimore when Williams was drafted.
"We called him 'Pound for Pound,' because he was our best football player pound-for-pound,' Nolan said.
Williams, 27, is an opportunistic player who could challenge for a starting job in the 49ers' secondary and figures to be no worse than the No. 3 safety. There is very little veteran depth behind starters Tony Parrish and Mike Adams and San Francisco did not make safety a priority in the draft.
The 49ers chose Marcus Hudson of North Carolina State in the sixth round and Arkansas' Vickiel Vaughn in the seventh round. Williams has experience at both safety spots and is also an excellent special teams performer.
The former Southern Mississippi standout certainly has a nose for the ball, as evidenced by number of meaningful plays he authored despite limited playing time. In addition to 158 tackles, Williams has eight interceptions, 25 passes defensed, 5 ½ sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Last season, Williams posted a career-high 47 tackles despite only three starts.
Williams has also scored three touchdowns on defense or special teams.
During the free-agency period, Williams drew interest from several other teams but was unable to strike a deal. Details of his contract with the 49ers were not yet available.