Shawn Williams‬‬ Signing Shows Cincinnati Bengals Strategy: Draft Right, Develop, Retain

The Cincinnati Bengals signed safety Shawn Williams to a four-year deal, extending his contract with the defending AFC North champions through the 2020 season. In a Bengals press release, Marvin Lewis noted that Shawn — who was previously a special teams contributor and a back-up on the defense — was “bright, young” and “has been a physical player and he has increased his value” as a defensive asset for the Bengals. Lewis went on to explain that offering Williams the contract extension is simply part of the way the Cincinnati Bengals do business.

“This is just one more part of our plan, which is to draft the right players, develop them and retain them.”

Given the Bengals’ need at the safety position with Reggie Nelson leaving Cincinnati for the Oakland Raider, step three of that plan came at just the right time for Williams and the Bengals. After three years in Cincinnati, Shawn is expected to be a regular part of the Bengals defense in the 2016 NFL season.

“Draft the right players…”

Williams was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013. A third-round draft pick as the No. 84 overall selection, Shawn was the Bengals’ fourth selection of the year. It came in a draft year when the Bengals used one pick from each of the first four rounds to take a defensive player: Tyler Eifert (TE, first round); Margus Hunt (DE, second round); Sean Porter (LB, fourth round); and Williams.

Williams caught the attention of the Bengals after playing four years of college ball at the University of Georgia under coach Mark Richt. The draft-develop-retain model starts fresh with another safety, Clayton Fejedelem out of Illinois, who the Bengals signed last month.

“Develop them…”

Thanks to his role with special teams early on, Williams has played in all 16 regular season games all three years that he’s been a Cincinnati Bengal. With limited exposure during his first and second seasons, he averaged less than one tackle/game.

In 2015, he began taking snaps as a back-up to both Nelson and George Iloka. The additional time on the field allowed Williams to register a total of 32 combined tackles and a pair of interceptions. Had Nelson and Iloka not been performing at such a high level in 2015, Williams would have likely seen even more playing time. Unless something major happens between now and September 11, Shawn will likely be a starting safety against the New York Jets on opening day.


“… retain them.”

Along with the prospects of considerable playing time, Williams was coaxed into staying with the Bengals by way of nearly $20 million. More specifically, the contract is believed to be worth $19.5 million over four years, with $4 million guaranteed.

At an average of just under $5 million per year, that should rank Williams near the Top 20 earners at his position for the 2016 season. Iloka is set to earn about $6 million in 2016, while Taylor Mays will earn $840,000. Both Fejedelem and Derron Smith are right at the $600,000 mark. Floyd Raven is the lowest-paid Bengals safety at $495,000 in 2016.

[Photo by Christian Peterson/Getty Images]