SANTA CLARA — The 49ers’ defensive makeover resumed Monday when veteran free safety Madieu Williams agreed to a one-year contract, a league source confirmed.
What that says about the team’s willingness to re-sign free agent Dashon Goldson remains in question.
Williams, released Thursday by the Minnesota Vikings, has never made the Pro Bowl in seven seasons as a starting safety. But he did win last season’s NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, and he was visiting U.S. service members in Iraq when the award was bestowed before Super Bowls XLV.
“Madieu is a person that cares about people. He is not your prototypical pro athlete by any means,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said upon Williams’ recognition. “He is a rare person.”
The 49ers didn’t sign Williams simply for humanitarian endeavors, however.
Williams, 29, could be asked to fill a hole at free safety if Goldson leaves as a free agent. Goldson, a fourth-round draft pick in 2007, started all 32 games at free safety the past two seasons.
Goldson responded on Twitter that Williams’ arrival won’t scare him away from the negotiation table and he’ll keep an “open mind.” He added he “won’t mind takin(g) my talents else where to a place where I’m wanted ... Whether (that’s) San Fran, Dallas or (wherever).”
Other safeties vying for starting roles include fourth-year veteran Reggie Smith and 2010 second-round draft pick Taylor Mays. That duo split time last season alongside Goldson, who tallied just one interception in 2010 after totaling four in ’09.
Williams recorded only one interception the past two seasons. He missed the first seven games of 2008 because of a neck injury, and he finished that season with two interceptions.
Terms of his contract with the 49ers haven’t been disclosed. He’s expected to earn just over the veteran minimum salary of $810,000, according to the source. Williams was slotted to make $5.4 million in salary this season as part of a six-year, $33 million deal that brought him to Minnesota, where he won NFC North titles his first two seasons (2008-09).