The only thing surprising about the Saints using their franchise tag on Williams is that it reduces their salary-cap flexibility -- and they were already about $50 million over the projected cap to start this week. But the Saints made it a priority to keep Williams, and the franchise tag cost for safeties is much cheaper than other positions.
Williams, 24, has been a full-time starter at free safety since the Saints drafted him in the second round out of Utah in 2017.
He has 13 career interceptions in the regular season, one of which he returned for a touchdown in 2019, and one interception in the playoffs. That combined total ties him for eighth among all NFL players and fourth among safeties over the past four seasons.
Williams' most infamous play was his missed tackle against then-Minnesota Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs in the "Minneapolis Miracle" playoff loss at the end of his rookie year. And he openly acknowledged that tackling was his biggest issue during his first three seasons. But the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder made noticeable strides in that area in 2020 while playing with more authority.
Often described as a ball hawk, Williams also had 10 interceptions over his final two seasons in college. And his arrival in 2017 was a big piece in New Orleans' overall turnaround on defense. The Saints have ranked ninth in the NFL in yards allowed and fifth in points allowed over the past four seasons while winning four straight NFC South titles.
ESPN's Mike Triplett contributed to this report.