The New York Giants have a big decision to make with Leonard Williams after 2022 season

Alexander Wilson
New York Giants, Leonard Williams
New York Giants defensive end Leonard Williams laughs during a press conference at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford on Wednesday, April 20, 2022. Nfl Ny Giants Coach And Gm Talk Nfl Draft

The New York Giants are headed toward the first year of a rebuild under new management but have a few holdover players who have stuck through tumultuous seasons under the leadership of Pat Shurmur and Joe Judge.

One of the few players still on the roster is star defensive lineman Leonard Williams. Former general manager Dave Gettleman made it a priority to acquire Williams from the New York Jets, sending a 2020 3rd-round pick and a conditional 4th-round pick in 2021 for the primary pass rusher.

Williams has had a solid tenure with Big Blue, tallying a career-best 11.5 sacks in 2020, his first season with Patrick Graham as defensive coordinator. Last season, he posted 6.5 sacks, 81 combined tackles, five tackles for loss, 14 QB hits, and two forced fumbles in 17 games.

Gettleman inked Leonard to a 3-year, $63 million deal during the 2021 off-season, but retired and left his bloated contract behind. The Giants have an out in his contract after the 2022 campaign. He would count $8.3 million in dead money but clear up a significant amount of salary space.

How much can the New York Giants save by cutting Leonard Williams next off-season?

The Giants currently have $6 million available, with a projected $54.2 million opening up in 2023. However, they have a big decision to make with Williams and his future with the team.

Williams is arguably the Giants’ best defensive player at this point in time, but if they want to clear up cap space and go after a better scheme fit, they can release him after the 2022 season. The Giants will save a whopping $18 million in salary space instead of counting $26.3 million against the cap.

Cutting Williams would increase the Giants’ salary space to $72.2 million. That is not even considering other players like Adoree’ Jackson, who would save the team $9 million if released next offseason.

The question is, is it worth cutting one of your best players in the middle of a rebuild just to open up salary space? You can make a good argument that it is more than justified since GM Joe Schoen doesn’t owe any loyalty to Williams and may prefer to draft a young defensive lineman to replace him as a long-term solution. The Buffalo Bills injected draft assets into their interior defensive line while signing several cost-efficient veterans (relevant given Schoen’s experience with the team).

It is always best to plug high-priced free agents with draft prospects, which gives you much more financial flexibility. However, the drop-off in talent would be significant, which is a factor they must consider.