Should the Giants extend DL Leonard Williams to clear salary space?

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The New York Giants currently have $3.8 million in salary cap space following a productive offseason. The lack of space gives New York little room to add free agents ahead of the 2023 regular season. However, the Giants still have a few roster moves they could make to clear salary cap space. Most notably, the team could attempt to lower Leonard Williams’ $32 million cap hit by signing the veteran defensive lineman to a contract extension.

Should the Giants extend Leonard Williams?

Williams is 28 years old, coming off of his fourth season with Big Blue after being acquired via trade in 2019. His contract will expire following the conclusion of the upcoming 2023 season.

According to Over The Cap, extending Leonard Williams would reward the Giants with $13.5 million in salary cap savings. After locking in DL Dexter Lawrence to a long-term extension, however, New York may be hesitant to allocate more of their salary cap to the interior of the defensive line.

To this point, New York has seemed content with allowing Williams to play out the final year of his deal. After franchise tagging him in 2021, the Giants signed Big Cat to a three-year, $63 million contract. The deal has since been restructured, adding a void year in 2024 and ballooning his 2023 cap hit to $32.26 million to create cap space last season.

Getting Williams’ cap hit off the books after this season will give general manager Joe Schoen breathing room next offseason. Schoen may not be keen on spending future cap space on a veteran like Williams while the upcoming contract extensions of younger players like Andrew Thomas, Saquon Barkley, and Xavier McKinney loom large.

It is also difficult to project what Williams’ next contract could look like. In 2022, Williams had the least productive season of his Giants career, playing in only 12 games and recording just 2.5 sacks. Signing Williams to an extension this offseason runs the risk of overpaying him down the road if his performance continues to decline.

Apart from extending Williams, Big Blue could consider restructuring his contract once again. That move would free up $8.4 million in cap space while not affecting his 2024 cap hit. Schoen seems to be against the idea of using future cap space on veteran players, further evidenced by his refusal to extend CB Adoree’ Jackson this offseason.

The most likely outcome for Williams is that he will play out the final year of his deal and be reassessed next offseason. This strategy will allow the Giants to maintain their salary cap health in 2024 and beyond.

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