Call this one a major surprise.
The 49ers have released nose tackle Ian Williams with an injury settlement, according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan.
Williams was one of the most productive players on the 49ers in 2015 and had originally agreed to a five-year, $27.5 million contract extension in March, until a phantom injury led to ankle surgery and a trip to the injured reserve. It’s still unclear what the injury was or how it happened. The 49ers placed Williams on the NFI (non-football injury) list in late July and have remained mum on the situation ever since.
You have to wonder if Williams’ injury is career-threatening. Why else would the 49ers release him at such a strange point in the middle of a season? Something feels off about the timing of this, especially given the 49ers lack of a nose tackle in the middle. You would think, moving forward, Williams, DeForest Bucker and Arik Armstead would be a formidable defensive line moving froward. Even if Williams isn’t the same type of dominant force in the middle, he’s still worthy of a roster spot on the lowly 49ers, right?
Further, the 27-year-old was one of GM Trent Baalke’s best finds. An undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame, Williams was named a team captain last year by former head coach Jim Tomsula. You’d think Baalke would show more loyalty towards him. If Williams was healthy in 2016, this run defense could look and feel entirely different.
We’ll get some more clarity next week when the 49ers return from their bye week. Technically, Williams could potentially still return next season.