Cowboys sign safety Williams to four-year extension

OXNARD, Calif. -- Take it from Terrell Owens: Roy Williams is such a hard-hitter that offensive players make sure they know where he is before the ball is snapped so they can try avoiding the star safety.

Teams can't ever have enough guys like that. So on Wednesday, the Dallas Cowboys gave him a five-year deal worth $25.2 million, with $11.1 million guaranteed.

Williams would've been going into the final year of his rookie contract. The new contract gives him a raise this season and locks him up for four more years, through 2010.

"I am going to be a Cowboy for life," said Williams, who came to Dallas as the eighth overall pick in 2002. "I'm staying here."

Williams, who turns 26 this month, is already a three-time Pro Bowl player feared for his bone-jarring tackles. He does much of his damage against running backs -- as the ball carriers in training camp can certainly attest -- but it was a play he made against a receiver that caused a rule change.

The NFL outlawed "horse-collar" tackles after Williams dragged Owens down from behind in 2004, tearing two ankle ligaments and breaking his leg. That was the gruesome injury Owens surprisingly recovered from in time to play for Philadelphia in the Super Bowl.

Now his teammate, Owens smiled Wednesday when he described Williams as someone who dishes out "a lot of heartache and pain."

"He's one of the guys you have to be aware of on every given play," Owens said. "He'll bring it in the run game, he'll bring it in the passing game. He's like a double threat."

Owens is also no stranger to the importance of a contract extension.

"That's what you want if you want to be with a team for a long period of time," Owens said. "It shows you the appreciation a team has for you."

The Cowboys are trying to show a lot of appreciation to key players headed toward free agency.

They recently gave tight end Jason Witten a six-year extension worth around $28 million, with $12 million guaranteed, and they're negotiating with several other players.

"The more of those you can make sure you keep, the better off you're going to be," coach Bill Parcells said.

Williams had 81 tackles, three interceptions, 2½ sacks and a touchdown last season, his first without Darren Woodson on the club. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said he expects Williams to keep growing into Woodson's old role as the leader of the secondary.

"We're hoping he continues to make more interceptions, cause more fumbles and also to improve his game each and every year," Zimmer said. "He has a couple of big dimensions in his game that most players don't have."

Williams said he hadn't thought about becoming a free agent -- and is glad he won't have to.

"They showed me nothing but love and respect, and I appreciate that," he said. "They have a big belief in me and they showed that with this deal."

Williams' aggressive style has made him a fan favorite since he burst onto the scene at the University of Oklahoma. His No. 31 jersey has been a big seller since he joined the Cowboys.

"He probably is the second-most visible player we have on this team right now, with Terrell being the first," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "Roy, through his play, brings leadership and basically will be one of the main signatures on our defense.

"We all know how he's feared around the NFL, what he brings in a game that really honors a very physical player. And I would put him at the top of being a physical player in the NFL," Jones said.