Falcons re-sign standout LB Williams

Updated: April 23, 2007, 8:10 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- Restricted free agent Demorrio Williams, who has averaged 100-plus tackles for the Atlanta Falcons over the past two seasons and is regarded by some league scouts as an emerging young player, re-signed with the team on Monday.

The three-year veteran, who is projected to be the Falcons' starter at weakside linebacker in 2007 under the new coaching staff, signed a one-year contract for $1.3 million. In essence, he agreed to the qualifying offer Atlanta tendered him at the outset of the free-agency period.

Unless he signs a contract extension, Williams will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring and able to sign with any NFL team. In that scenario, Williams could be a much coveted defender in the market, and the Falcons might have a difficult time retaining him.

Although undersized and miscast earlier in his career as a strongside linebacker, Williams is a very active player and a superior athlete when playing in space. He has good combination blitz and coverage skills, and it will be interesting to see how new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer uses him this season.

The only negative scouts cite in assessing Williams is that he often gets overpowered at the point of attack. But in a scheme that accentuates his strengths, one that permits him to run to the ball and make big plays, he could develop into an even more effective defender.

Williams, 26, has appeared in 48 games and started 26 times, with all but one of those starts coming over the last two seasons. He has 273 tackles, 6 ½ sacks, three interceptions, three passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two recoveries.

In 2005, when he started in all 16 games, Williams registered a career-best 132 tackles. His 90 tackles last season in nine starts were the third most on the Atlanta defense.

The former Nebraska standout was a fourth-round choice in the 2004 draft.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

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