The New York Giants have a lot of key decisions to make this offseason, and one of them is what to do with their star defensive linemen Leonard Williams.
After acquiring Williams from the Jets via trade midway through the 2019 season, which was largely seen as a controversial move amongst Giants fans, general manager Dave Gettleman ended up using the franchise tag on Williams for 1-year and $16 million dollars after failing to come to terms on a long-term contract.
Looking back on it now, the Giants probably regret not locking up Williams long-term, as he went on to have a monster year this season. Williams was a Pro Bowl snub after racking up 57 total tackles and 11.5 sacks for the Giants and is sure to command a massive contract on the open market as a free agent.
There is no doubt that the Giants want to keep Williams in blue, but it might be difficult for them to do so. As good as Williams was this season, it was the first season in his career where he’s had more than 7 sacks, and that was back in 2016. In the three seasons between his 2016 season and this season, Williams only manages to put up 7.5 sacks total.
The questions surrounding whether Williams can maintain this elite level of play going forward could and probably should cause the Giants to have some reservations about how much they would be willing to pay him. If they can sign him for around $17-$18 million dollars per year, then they should bring him back. But, even with the shortened salary cap this offseason, it’s entirely possible Williams will command $20 million dollars per year, or maybe even more.
If the number goes that high, it would make more sense for Giants to let go of Williams. However, an alternative to simply letting him walk away for nothing is to tag and trade Williams, which is something that hasn’t been talked about much but would make a lot of sense for the Giants.
It remains unclear what the franchise tag salaries are going to look like this offseason and whether or not Williams would get tagged as a defensive end or a defensive tackle. A year ago, Williams got tagged as a defensive tackle, but that could change this season. Either way, the franchise tag salary isn’t likely to increase from last season and might even decrease due to the limited salary cap. Even if does increase, it likely won’t reach $20 million, so it would be worth it for the Giants.
Another huge bonus in tagging and trading Williams is the ability to get a potentially great draft pick in return, one that’s better than the third-round compensatory pick they would receive by letting him walk, which is basically a fourth-round pick in disguise. Williams will definitely draw interest around the league after the season he had, and if a team is willing to offer a second-round pick or even a first-round pick, it’s a no-brainer for the Giants.
This is probably an unlikely scenario for the Giants, even though there’s no reason for them not to do it if the opportunity presents itself. They would likely either pay up for Williams to keep him long term or let him walk for a compensatory pick.
But, tagging and trading Williams would be a creative and smart route the Giants could potentially take in order to add another early draft pick and spread out their cap space across multiple players rather than tying most of it to one player.
Leonard Williams had a phenomenal year and has earned himself a massive payday, whether that’s from the Giants or someone else. We shall see what the Giants choose to do in the coming months, but they would be wise to consider going in the direction of tagging and trading Williams if his price tags exceed what they’re willing to pay.