Free agent safety Marcus Williams a fit for Commanders’ defense

Marcus Williams

With the Super Bowl in the past and the 2021 season in the books, NBC Sports Washington's Ethan Cadeaux and Matt Weyrich take a look at potential free agents that the Washington Commanders could benefit from signing this offseason. Next up: Safety Marcus Williams.

There’s no way around it: Washington’s secondary was downright bad in 2021. The group got off to a slow start, showed some improvements down the stretch then suffered a string of injuries that cut a few of their seasons short. In the end, the team ranked 29th in the NFL with 254.9 passing yards allowed per game and finished dead last in touchdowns surrendered through the air at 34 on the year.

Washington’s DB issues didn’t come cheap, either. Safety Landon Collins is signed to the most expensive contract on the roster at six years and $84 million. Cornerback William Jackson III was the team’s biggest splash in free agency last year, inking a three-year, $40.5 million deal after four successful seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. Not to be forgotten is CB Kendall Fuller, who’s on a four-year, $40 million contract that has him signed through 2023.

For all that money being tossed around, Washington’s most dependable DB last season was 2020 seventh-round pick Kamren Curl. The Arkansas product appeared in 16 games, ranking second on the team with 99 tackles in addition to five passes defended, one sack and two tackles for loss. As Collins found a new role closer to the line of scrimmage, Bobby McCain emerged as a viable partner for Curl over the top. However, McCain is now a free agent, Deshazor Everett’s NFL future is in doubt after being charged with involuntary manslaughter and Collins could be cut or traded to save cap space.


As the Commanders attempt to build a roster this offseason capable of getting the team back to the playoffs, the safety position across from Curl will be among their biggest priorities. The top options available in free agency are Marcus Williams, Jesse Bates III and Tyrann Mathieu. Yet the latter two appear to be staying with their previous teams, leaving Williams as the top option available.

Marcus Williams

New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams may be most well known for being on the wrong end of the Minneapolis Miracle, making an ill-time jump that led to Stefon Diggs scoring the game-winning touchdown for the Minnesota Vikings in the 2017-18 Divisional Round. But aside from that play, he’s been nothing short of a star for the Saints over the last five years.

Williams, 25, entered the league in 2017 as a second-round pick out of Utah and immediately made his way onto the Saints’ first-team defense. He’s accrued 38 passes defended, 15 interceptions and 320 tackles while appearing in all but five games. Only four other defensive players have surpassed all three of those totals since 2017: Mathieu, Justin Simmons, Harrison Smith and Kevin Byard.

In terms of scheme, Williams would fit right into Jack Del Rio’s zone-heavy defense. Williams is a well-rounded player but particularly excels as a single-high safety and in Cover 2 zone coverage while giving up the occasional big play in man-to-man. Although he wouldn’t line up near the line of scrimmage like Collins did, Del Rio was attempting to run the Cover 2 when the 2021 season began anyway.

Williams is a stud and his market is going to reflect that. The Saints will have the option to franchise tag him for the second-straight year, but their salary cap constraints make a tag unlikely. Instead, Williams is expected to hit free agency for the first time in his career. Spotrac pegs his market value at $15 million per year, estimating that he’ll receive a five-year deal worth about $75 million.

To afford that, the Commanders will almost certainly have to find a way to offload Collins’s contract.

Per Over the Cap, Washington enters this offseason with less than $32 million of cap space. Though that theoretically leaves enough room to sign Williams, the Commanders still need to find a quarterback, determine whether to re-sign All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff and add an offensive weapon or two to improve an offense that ranked 23rd in points scored last season. After taking care of all that, there won’t be much room to spend on their secondary without making other moves.

If Washington decides to go for a cheaper option, Quandre Diggs and Terrell Edmunds stand out as the next-best options. Diggs, who’s represented the Seattle Seahawks in the Pro Bowl each of the last two seasons, has a propensity for turnovers with at least three interceptions each of the last five seasons. Edmunds has spent his entire career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, averaging 85 tackles per year with 21 passes defended and five interceptions.


After how much their secondary struggled last year, the Commanders are once again looking for some improvement out of their DBs. With Williams in tow, the unit would suddenly have a much different outlook.

Other Free Agent Targets:

2 viable quarterbacks

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

CBs Patrick Peterson, Joe Haden

WR Mike Williams

WRs Chris Godwin, Michael Gallup