The New York Giants have several difficult decisions to make this off-season, especially when it comes to their available money. Free agency will likely be weaker than usual, as the Giants currently sit at about $3.4 million above the salary cap. With the likelihood that Nate Solder will be cut post-June 1 and Golden Tate will undergo the same treatment, the Giants can open up about $19 million in available money. However, that money won’t be available until post-June 1, so they will need to find ways to sign players without hurting themselves down the line.
Retaining Leonard Williams on a multi-year deal is likely a priority for the Giants, but there is one interesting scenario that allows them to move on from Williams and acquire an elite pass rusher for less money.
The New York Giants could consider a move on JJ Watt:
Rumors have indicated that the Houston Texans could cut or trade JJ Watt, who has only recorded 9.0 sacks over the last two seasons. Nonetheless, the Houston defense has been lackluster the past two years, with Watt representing their only true threat. Injecting him into a unit like the Giants with stellar coaching and better personnel, he would likely find himself hitting double digits in the sack category once again.
Some might be concerned about his injury history, as Watt has missed 8 games over the last three years. A player of his quality, though, is extremely impactful and would only help the defense moving forward.
There is an argument to be made that Leonard Williams is even more valuable, considering he’s never missed a game due to injury and racked up 11.5 sacks last year. It is clear that he can thrive under Graham on defense, but if the Giants are forced to let Dalvin Tomlinson walk, that dynamic duo could hurt Williams’ production in 2021. Watt has proven he can dominate and produce without stellar pieces around him, as he recorded 16 sacks in 2018. He also recorded seven forced fumbles in that season and two last year.
In this interesting scenario, the Giants let Williams walk, who is likely looking for $20+ million per season. They can wait until the Houston Texans inevitably cut JJ Watt and offer him $15-17 million per year for the next 2–3 seasons. By backloading his contract to the second year, they can also fit Tomlinson into their available cap space. It would essentially be a trade-off, Watt for Williams.
There are plenty of arguments to make against this scenario, notably that Williams is five years younger and is historically healthy. He also is coming off a phenomenal season and has a year of experience with Patrick Graham’s style/scheme. Watt will be entering a new media market and system, so it could take him some time to adjust. With that being said, he is so experienced that I wouldn’t put much weight into the adapting factor.
This is an intriguing idea that would lower the Giants’ financial obligations to the defensive line while also acquiring an elite talent that has a few years left to produce. The savings would also benefit Big Blue exponentially, allowing them to make the decision to keep Tomlinson and slide/or rollover more money into the wide receiver position.