New York Giants could franchise tag Leonard Williams for a second time, but why?

Alexander Wilson
New York Giants, Leonard Williams
Sep 27, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens (4) throws a pass while pressured by New York Giants defensive end Leonard Williams (99) during the first quarter of a NFL football game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

As the New York Giants and Leonard Williams saga unfolds this off-season, replacing his production becomes a more eerie problem. If Williams decides to walk in free agency and take his talents elsewhere, the Giants will have to replace their best defender, arguably.

With that being said, Williams is Dave Gettleman’s Golden Goose, having traded a third and fifth-round pick for him less than two years ago. If the Giants do, in fact, let him walk, it will leave a massive stain on Gettleman’s tenure in New York, as he essentially gave away draft picks for two losing seasons.

However, the expectation is that both sides will come to an agreement, which could likely keep Williams in New York for the next three years at minimum. While the negotiation process has begun, a fresh deal isn’t close.

The Athletic’s Dan Duggan states that the Giants and Williams aren’t close on a new contract as of yet:

The Giants will use the next two weeks to try to sign Williams to a long-term contract. A source said that the sides aren’t close to an agreement. But it’s still early, and things can move fast in negotiations.

Williams finished the 2020 season with 11.5 sacks, 57 combine tackles, 30 QB hits, and 14 tackles for loss. Three of those categories were career highs for Leo, which should be enough to convince the Giants that he is worth a long-term investment. Considering he has never missed a game in his career due to injury, not only is he a constant, but analysts hold him in high regard, with quite spectacular company.

There is another option for the Giants, which could give them a bit more time to find a solution on a long-term contract. With minimal money to spend this off-season, shedding dead weight and lowering cap hits for specific players is likely in the near future. The Giants have until March 9 to utilize the franchise tag on Williams if they’d like to go that route.

If he is tagged, Williams will count $19.3 million in 2021, but it does offer the Giants an opportunity to extend him on a long-term deal, rescinding the tag. They could also use the transition tag, which would allow them to match any alternative offers from other teams. Either way, they have leverage in the process, but it might be more cost-efficient to extend him on a long-term deal and keep him for one more season at $19.3 million. The big question is, can they expect him to replicate his 11.5 sack season longing forward, especially with inconsistent production since entering the NFL.