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Shawn Williams inks 4-year contract extension with Bengals

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Shawn Williams is now one of the team's primary safeties for the foreseeable future.

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Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals are one of the NFL's best teams when it comes to re-signing their own.

That's especially true in the case of impact players like Shawn Williams, who is now one of the team's primary safeties for the foreseeable future. The team announced Tuesday that Williams had signed a four-year extension through the 2020 NFL season.

The deal averages out to $4.875 million per year and has only $4 million guaranteed, which makes it a pretty team-friendly deal for a player who has yet to be a full-time starter.

This comes as Williams was set to enter a contract year in 2016 and sign his first big NFL deal next year as he's in the last year of his rookie deal.

"Shawn is one of our bright, young players, and we’re excited to have him as part of the team moving forward," said head coach Marvin Lewis via a press release. "He has been a physical player, and he has increased his value as a playmaker on the ball. This is just one more part of our plan, which is to draft the right players, develop them and retain them."

For the majority of his college and early NFL career, Williams resembled more of a hard-hitting strong safety who could lay the big hit and put fear into any receiver coming across the middle.

But Williams has improved his pass-coverage abilities to the point he ended up getting the bulk of the snaps at both safety spots whenever George Iloka or Reggie Nelson were out. Williams finished 2015 with career-high in tackles (32), pass deflections (5) and interceptions (2).

"We see Shawn as an ascending player," said defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. "He’s smart, he’s tough, and he’s not limited in his role. He can do a lot of things well."

Williams finished as Pro Football Focus' 43rd-best safety with a 73.7 grade in 2015, which is in their 'starter' tier of grades. He did so in just 535 snaps, whereas most of the safeties above him played 800+ snaps.

It's hard to say how well Williams would do in a full-time role for an entire season, but it's safe to think he'd be a quality player for the Bengals based on how well he played in his first real significant role this past season.

As for what the future holds for Williams, he showed enough that he can start and be effective at either safety spot, so it will be interesting to see how the Bengals build their defense with Iloka and Williams now that Nelson left via free agency this offseason.

Preferably, Williams will play more at strong safety as he's more of a physical guy who you want closer to the line of scrimmage for him to be at his best. He's also someone who can play nickel linebacker and even corner in emergencies as he's becoming the Chris Crocker/Swiss Army Knife of this defense.

Whatever he does, Williams will likely be doing it for several more years as he's now a Bengal for the forseeable future.