The New York Giants placed their franchise tag on newly acquired defensive lineman Leonard Williams this offseason. That franchise tag will pay Williams $16.1 million for the 2020 NFL season. Williams was acquired in a midseason trade that cost the Giants a 2020 third-round pick and a 2021 fifth-round pick. General Manager Dave Gettleman prioritizes the defensive line and felt this to be a worthy trade, despite the negative reaction amongst fans.
One of the main criticisms of the Leonard Williams trade was Leonard’s impending contract status. Williams was set to be a free agent in the 2020 offseason. With his contract expiring, many fans did not understand why Gettleman felt the need to trade for him midseason when the Giants could have just bid on Williams in free agency instead.
Leonard Williams Contract Update
Critics of this trade are getting more justification with the latest news. According to a report by Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, Leonard Williams is asking for crazy money from the New York Giants. The report states that Williams is “seeking a deal worth $18-$20M per season.” The deadline for the Giants and Williams to agree to a long-term deal is July 15th and the two sides reportedly are “not close” to reaching an agreement.
Is Leonard Williams Worth His Asking Price?
If the Giants do pay Leonard Williams that salary, it will be a highly controversial decision. An $18-20 million dollar salary will make Williams one of the highest-paid interior defensive linemen in the NFL. Currently, Aaron Donald is the highest-paid IDL with an average salary of $22.5 million. A salary of $18-20 million would make Leonard Williams the third-highest-paid interior defensive lineman in the league. At that price point, Williams would be paid more than the likes of J.J. Watt, Fletcher Cox, Grady Jarrett, Geno Atkins, and many other highly-talented defensive linemen on their second contracts.
Leonard Williams is not the only interior defensive lineman looking to secure a big bag right now. Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones is also seeking a contract worth $20 million annually. Jones’s contract dispute with Kansas City could lead to a trade. The difference between Chris Jones and Leonard Williams, though, is that Chris Jones is a much better player.
Chris Jones is a legitimate pass-rushing threat from the interior. In 2018, Jones totaled 15.5 sacks and 49 pressures. He followed that up with a 9 sack, 27 pressure performance in 2019. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones ranks third among interior defenders in pass-rushing grade over the past four seasons. He also has recorded 212 pressures in that time span, fourth-most (PFF). Production like that is worth a premium price. Compare that to Leonard Williams’s 17.5 career sacks, and it is hard to justify paying these two players the same salary.
Leonard Williams is a talented defensive lineman and does have value as one of the ten best players at his position. However, he is not a top-three player at his position and it would not make much sense for the Giants to pay him like he is.
Leonard Williams Stats and Highlights
The Giants do have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Leonard Williams is arguably the best player on the team’s defense. He has been a great run-defender throughout his entire career but he has not been a consistently good pass-rusher. However, PFF has discussed why Williams might be underrated as a pass-rusher:
“Among 87 interior defenders with 200 or more pass-rushing snaps, Williams ranked 13th in pressure rate at 11.3% but his one sack in 424 pass-rushing snaps put him near the bottom of the list in sack rate. On the other hand, Williams led the position with 19 quarterback hits. A few fractions of a second faster on several of those plays and that sack total looks a whole lot more respectable.” Pro Football Focus on Leonard Williams’s pass-rushing ability.
Williams does get consistent quarterback pressure. He recorded 17 pressures in 8 games with the New York Giants in 2019. But is this reason enough to justify a $20 million dollar contract? The Giants have other players that they will soon need to consider paying large contracts to, such as Saquon Barkley, Jabrill Peppers, Daniel Jones, and Evan Engram. It might be wise for the Giants to save their money for those players, rather than pay Leonard Williams like he is one of the best players in the NFL when he simply is not.