There is no question that the New York Giants will feature Leonard Williams on their defensive line during the 2020 season. General manager Dave Gettleman tapped Williams with the franchise tag, which will pay him about $16 million this upcoming year.
The Williams debate has been the talk of the town since Gettleman traded a third-round pick for him in 2019. While his influence doesn’t come in the form of sacks, he made the players around him better.
Specifically, Dalvin Tomlinson saw his numbers double when Williams joined Big Blue in week eight of the 2019 regular season. The former Jet also saw his numbers increase, mainly his quarterback hits, which saw an increase of six from 5 to 11 in nearly the same percentage of defensive snaps with the Giants. In fact, he actually played more defensive snaps with the Jets (by 1%) through the first seven weeks compared to the Giants in the final eight. That is quite impressive from a production standpoint.
However, when evaluating Williams, you shouldn’t look at his sack numbers, but rather his pressure rate. His 11.3 pressure rate in 2019, ranked 13th among interior defensive lineman, according to Pro Football Focus. He lead all interior lineman with 19 pressures, which was five more than the 2nd ranked player.
Leonard Williams ranked 11th in total pressures among interior defensive lineman in 2019. Only Williams and two others in the top 20 had fewer than 4 sacks last season.
Leonard Williams led the NFL with 19 QB hits, with the 2nd ranked player recording 14.
— PFF NY Giants (@PFF_Giants) May 9, 2020
The debate isn’t whether Williams is productive, though, it’s his contract that spurs the most negativity. It seems people understand what he brings to the defense, but not the price tag that accompanies it. Paying out $16 million for a defensive tackle is often not the best allocation of resources. Nonetheless, the New York Giants still have time to extend him on a multi-year deal that pays him less per season.
The Giants need Williams to play at a high-level this upcoming season, as his influence on Tomlinson and Dexter Lawrence is significant.
“He brings experience and a great work ethic to our group because he makes you want to outwork him in practice every day, where he goes harder than anyone,” Lawrence told Pat Ragazzo of Sports Illustrated. “A lot of people don’t understand the value he brings to a defense, but I know firsthand what kind of impact he makes.”