New York Giants looking for long term deal for Leonard Williams

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

The New York Giants have a big situation on their hands when it comes to the pass rush spot. Leonard Williams was their sack leader in 2020, and after doubts about whether or not he would return for 2021, the Giants franchise tagged him for the second straight year. This, of course, now leaves the question of whether the Giants are going to sign Williams to a long term deal or not.

According to a report from Ian Rapoport, however, the team is leaning in that direction and working on making that deal happen. The second franchise tag costs more, so the Giants will have to pay $19.3 million to Williams this season as things stand. However, they do have until July to change that by coming to an agreement on a long term deal – that hasn’t happened yet, obviously.

Williams seemingly has a lot of leverage here as a player coming off his best season, and one that will definitely draw him interest from other teams around the league. However, that’s not to say that Williams has no reasons to stay.

He’s played his entire career in New York, having been traded from the Jets when he joined the Giants, and is also playing in a system where he’s been able to flourish. Williams was considered an underperformer for the Jets and a bust in his first season with the Giants, but was able to turn it around partly due to the coaching of Patrick Graham as defensive coordinator.

With that being said, the future is unclear – there would be benefits to both sides from a long term deal, but the Giants may just end up paying up big time to have Williams play on the tag and avoid losing their top pass rusher.

New York Giants slap DL Leonard Williams with Franchise Tag, what does this mean?

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

It was no secret that the New York Giants were looking to retain star defensive lineman Leonard Williams, whether or not they would use the franchise tag on him was yet to be seen.

With Tuesday, March 9 being the deadline to utilize the tag, the Giants didn’t waste any time amid rumors that it could be pushed back with the salary cap not yet established.

Williams is arguably their best defender, picking up 11.5 sacks and 62 pressures in 2020. Last season, he played on the franchise tag as well, earning $16.1 million without a long-term deal in place.

However, Ian Rappaport of NFL Network has stated that the Giants will likely franchise tag Williams, which is a good move for the organization as they try to work out a long-term extension.

Essentially, this indicates that other teams won’t be able to pursue him in FA, as he will be contractually bound to the Giants by means of the tag. While it hurts Williams’ leverage, the Giants expect him to pay him a fair amount, given his production and the simple fact that he’s never missed a game to the injury.

With free agency starting on March 17 at 4 PM, the Giants now have an additional week to iron out a deal, but it could carry on into FA months. If I were to imagine, though, they would want to get this deal done as soon as possible.

If Leonard were to play on the franchise tag for the 2021 season, he would earn $19.3 million, a 120% increase. That entire number would count against the salary cap, something the Giants simply can’t afford this off-season.

New York Giants: NFLPA grievance could cost Giants $3.8M on Williams tag

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

It’s looking like the New York Giants could franchise tag pass rusher Leonard Williams this offseason to prevent him from leaving in free agency. However, if they decide to do that, they might have to pay more than they initially expected.

According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, Williams has an open grievance with the NFLPA to be designated as a defensive end instead of a defensive tackle. This would impact how much money Williams receives if the Giants do go ahead and give him the franchise tag.

The Giants may have to pay Williams more retroactively after franchise tagging him as a defensive tackle and playing him more as a defensive end, a higher paid position. The main concern, however, is that his tag price for a second time around would rise to $21.4M. The Giants will be in a tough cap spot this season and the front office definitely won’t be happy to hear about Williams costing $3.8M more to bring back.

It seems like the team wants to sign Williams to a longer deal but that may not happen with other teams being in a position to offer more money. Furthermore, the Giants may prioritize bringing back Williams’ fellow lineman Dalvin Tomlinson instead.

With other teams circling and sitting in a position to sign Williams this offseason, many have predicted the Giants going in another direction to address the pass rush, which Williams led in 2020. That might include drafting Miami defensive end Gregory Rousseau, or trying to address the position through free agency. Either way, a potentially costlier tag is just one new thing on a list of reasons a Williams return in 2021 is looking more unlikely.

New York Giants could franchise tag Leonard Williams for a second time, but why?

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

As the New York Giants and Leonard Williams saga unfolds this off-season, replacing his production becomes a more eerie problem. If Williams decides to walk in free agency and take his talents elsewhere, the Giants will have to replace their best defender, arguably.

With that being said, Williams is Dave Gettleman’s Golden Goose, having traded a third and fifth-round pick for him less than two years ago. If the Giants do, in fact, let him walk, it will leave a massive stain on Gettleman’s tenure in New York, as he essentially gave away draft picks for two losing seasons.

However, the expectation is that both sides will come to an agreement, which could likely keep Williams in New York for the next three years at minimum. While the negotiation process has begun, a fresh deal isn’t close.

The Athletic’s Dan Duggan states that the Giants and Williams aren’t close on a new contract as of yet:

The Giants will use the next two weeks to try to sign Williams to a long-term contract. A source said that the sides aren’t close to an agreement. But it’s still early, and things can move fast in negotiations.

Williams finished the 2020 season with 11.5 sacks, 57 combine tackles, 30 QB hits, and 14 tackles for loss. Three of those categories were career highs for Leo, which should be enough to convince the Giants that he is worth a long-term investment. Considering he has never missed a game in his career due to injury, not only is he a constant, but analysts hold him in high regard, with quite spectacular company.

There is another option for the Giants, which could give them a bit more time to find a solution on a long-term contract. With minimal money to spend this off-season, shedding dead weight and lowering cap hits for specific players is likely in the near future. The Giants have until March 9 to utilize the franchise tag on Williams if they’d like to go that route.

If he is tagged, Williams will count $19.3 million in 2021, but it does offer the Giants an opportunity to extend him on a long-term deal, rescinding the tag. They could also use the transition tag, which would allow them to match any alternative offers from other teams. Either way, they have leverage in the process, but it might be more cost-efficient to extend him on a long-term deal and keep him for one more season at $19.3 million. The big question is, can they expect him to replicate his 11.5 sack season longing forward, especially with inconsistent production since entering the NFL.

New York Giants: The Underrated Benefit of Drafting a Cornerback

New York Giants, Patrick Surtain

As the 2021 NFL Draft swiftly approaches, the New York Giants are doing their best to make sure they get the No. 11 overall pick correct. Following a 2020 season that saw the team make strides towards competitiveness for the first time in years, it’s vital Big Blue makes the correct choice. Most mock drafts have suggested the team take an offensive-playmaker, a pass rusher, or an offensive lineman. While all of those options would greatly benefit the Giants, there’s one position that would kill two birds with one stone – cornerback.

The Underrated Benefit of Drafting a Cornerback at No. 11 Overall

The Role a Strong Secondary Plays in the Pass Rushing Game

On paper, a cornerback’s main duty is to defend against the opponent’s passing game. Whether that be via soft-zone, press-man, or any other scheme that Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham draws up, that is their job. A strong secondary-unit does more than just wreak havoc on opposing receivers and quarterbacks though. It allows the pass rush to get after the QB and forces the opponent to adjust their style of play. The Giants would reap the major benefits of this style of play by taking a defensive-back in round one this spring.

Following the 2019 season, the Giants knew they needed to improve their secondary. They allowed the fifth-most passing yards per game in the NFL and consistently failed to get off the field in crunch-time. To fix this issue they went out and signed James Bradberry. Bradberry outperformed all expectations in his first year with Big Blue in 2020, earning the first pro-bowl nod of his career. But it wasn’t only Bradberry who enjoyed a successful season – the entire Giants secondary improved significantly. The team allowed 26.2 less yards per game through the air and finished as the 17th-ranked unit in the league. Along with the improved pass defense came an uptick in pressure on the QB.

The Giants finished 2020 tied for the 11th-most sacks in the NFL with 40, 11 spots higher than their ranking in 2019. Despite not signing a dominant pass rusher in free agency last offseason, their pass rush improved. How? Strong play from the secondary. It’s not a coincidence both sections of the defense improved either. Almost all of the best passing defenses rushed the passer effectively in 2020.

The Correlation Between a Strong Passing Defense/Sacks

Of the six-best defenses against the pass in 2020, three of them finished in the top-six for sacks. On the other end of the rankings the correlation is relevant as well. Of the 10-worst pass defenses, five of them were in the bottom-10 for total sacks. A strong secondary allows the defensive line to produce something called a “coverage sack.” That is when a team forces the QB to hold onto the ball for an extended period of time, allowing the pass rushers to blow the play up.

The biggest example of a player benefitting from strong secondary play, and converting on “coverage sacks” is the Giants own Leonard Williams. In eight games with the team in 2019 Williams posted a measly 0.5 sacks. He did, however, register 11 hits on the QB. It was clear in 2019 that Williams needed only one more second to turn those hits into sacks. And when he received that extra second this past season, he made it count.

In 16 games with Big Blue in 2020 Williams was simply dominant. His 11.5 sacks led the team and were the 7th-most in the NFL. Nothing much about the former No. 6 overall pick changed heading into 2020. He was the same player but this time around had a group of high-football-IQ players behind him. He pounced on his secondary’s success and showed everyone why he was taken so high back in 2015.

Who Would be in Play at No. 11

If the Giants were to go the CB route in round one, which I strongly endorse, there are two players on the table: Patrick Surtain from Alabama and Caleb Farley out of Virginia Tech. Both are projected to be lockdown corners at the next level, and with good reason. Each played against top-tier competition while in college, possess nearly identical long, rangy frames, as well as a wealth of skill to play in almost any type of defense. They’re each projected to go in the top-15 of the draft this April.

Let’s say the Giants like Surtain a bit more because of coach Judge’s connection to Alabama, and take him at No. 11. He would immediately slide into CB2 opposite Bradberry. It’s fair to say the Giants would have one of, if not the best CB duo in the NFL with that pairing. It would be extremely difficult for an opposing to QB to find an open receiver each play, thus giving the d-line time to do their job.

There’s no need to draft an edge rusher at No. 11 overall or overpay for one in free agency this offseason. Continue to build up the secondary and the sack production will increase as a result. When there’s a chance to fill two positions of need with one player, you must take it.

New York Giants have had preliminary talks with Leonard Williams

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

The New York Giants have had preliminary talks about a contract extension with Leonard Williams’ camp, per source.

As the source also noted, Williams is weighing all of his options, which includes listening to other teams once the free-agent period begins in March, but there is definitely a possibility that an extension could get done with the Giants before he hits the open market.

While the Giants have expressed that they want him back, they first need to figure out their tight salary cap situation with Williams and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, both pending free agency. The team is hoping to retain both players and could potentially use the franchise tag on Tomlinson as they did with Williams a season ago.

As ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported, the Giants will put forth their best effort to re-sign Williams this offseason, and if it doesn’t work out, Williams will have plenty of suitors.

After an underwhelming 2019 campaign, Williams is coming off the best season of his career, where he recorded 11.5 sacks, 30 quarterback hits, and 14 tackles for a loss in 16 games playing on the one-year franchise tag worth $16.126 million.

Following his productive season where he thrived in defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s system, the 26-year-old is set up for a significant payday, whether it be with the Giants or elsewhere.

However, as Williams stated in his exit interview, it’s never been about the money, but more so earning respect, which he did last season.

An exciting defensive line prospect for the New York Giants to target if they lose Dalvin Tomlinson

The strength of the New York Giants is their defense. Undeniably the strongest positional group on New York’s defense is their defensive line. The trio of Dalvin Tomlinson, Leonard Williams, and Dexter Lawrence dominated in 2020. This group cost numerous assets to put together, but the Giants saw plenty of returns on their investments this past season.

Leonard Williams had a career-year with 11.5 sacks. Dalvin Tomlinson also continued to stand out, racking up 3.5 sacks and 49 combined tackles. Dexter Lawrence was phenomenal in his second year, posting 4 sacks and 53 combined tackles. It will be a major point of emphasis for the Giants to keep this trio together and build the defense around this unit.

However, the Giants are entering a crucial free agency period where they could lose one or two of these defensive linemen. Both Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson are free agents. It will be a top priority for the Giants to sign these players to contract extensions. But if one of them walks, it would be a huge blow to the defense and would force them to turn their attentions towards the interior defensive line prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Fortunately, there are some really intriguing defensive line prospects in the middle rounds of this year’s draft class. One exciting prospect to keep an eye on is Alim McNeill out of NC State. McNeill is a sleeper prospect that has begun rising up draft boards in recent weeks. If the Giants lose Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency, Alim McNeill would be the perfect nose tackle replacement to target in the draft.

Alim McNeill stats and highlights

Describe a unicorn. How about a 315-pound nose tackle that can hit 18 miles per hour on a treadmill and rush the passer with great efficiency? That sounds like a unicorn. That also sounds like Alim McNeill. Alim McNeill is a freakishly athletic interior defensive lineman that might somehow fall into the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

McNeill was initially projected as a third or fourth-round draft pick. However, in recent weeks, talent evaluators like Pro Football Focus have begun to hype up McNeill and tout him as a second-round prospect. It is not difficult to see what PFF sees when they praise Alim McNeill.

Nose tackles that can defend the run are common. But nose tackles that can pass-rush are rare. Alim McNeill was proficient at doing both in college. McNeill lined up as a 0-tech in college but was still able to find production as a pass-rusher, which is highly uncommon from that defensive alignment. McNeill’s athleticism comes from his history playing running back in high school. It is shocking how frequently that athleticism shows up on his game tape playing defensive line in college.

Alim McNeill might not be the most technically refined or advanced pass-rusher. But he has elite explosiveness and the ability to barrel through offensive linemen en route to the quarterback. McNeill posted 10 sacks through 32 career games and, according to Pro Football Focus, had a 9.3% pass-rush win rate, far above the draft class average from his position.

McNeill’s run-defense grade via PFF was 92.1 with a 77.5 pass-rushing grade. He has the ability to make plays in both facets of the game. The hope is for the New York Giants to re-sign Dalvin Tomlinson this offseason. But if they are unable to make that happen, drafting Alim McNeill would be quite the backup plan.

New York Giants: Early free-agents contracts Gettleman should be pro-active with

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

The 2020 NFL season did not go as planned for the New York Giants, but the franchised showed promise. Big Blue managed just a 6-10 record and was one game away from playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wildcard. Giants’ head coach Joe Judge seems to have his team on the right track for the future.

The Giants are a player or two away from being a force in a wide-open NFC East. The first chance the G-Men will be able to build the roster will come on March 17th. New York is projected to have more than $13 million over the salary cap, but the team should have their eye on a few top targets this offseason.

Here are three players the New York Giants should consider signing or re-signing this offseason:

DE Leonard Williams

If there is one player Dave Gettleman needs to re-sign this offseason, it has to be Leonard Williams. Gettleman is so invested in Williams, but that is not the main reason why he deserves a big deal.

Williams deserves an extension for being one of the best players on the Giants last season. Big Will proved to be the game-wrecker the Giants’ defense needed. He appeared in all 16 games for New York, finishing with 57 tackles, 11.5 sacks, and 14 tackles for losses. Not only did Williams have a monster season, but he is also a scheme fit for Patrick Graham.

“We love him in the building, he’s a great teammate, he’s fun to coach,” Judge said, per Steve Serby of the New York Post. “He makes your job a lot easier in terms of coming to work and enjoying your job, but then also making plays on the field, ’cause really, players make coaches good or not.”

If the New York Giants re-sign LW, they will probably not have enough money for Dalvin Tomlinson. The Giants have to choose if they want a dominant run stopper in Tomlinson or if they want a premier 3-4 pass rusher in Williams. The Giants should take the pass rusher, no questions asked.

Williams will likely earn in the $18-20 million per-season range. It would be wise of the Giants to get a deal done before the start of free agency.

WR Curtis Samuel

If the New York Giants want to bring the most out of quarterback Daniel Jones, they need to prove the pieces they have around him. Receiver/RB Curtis Samuel could be that sneaky piece the Giants’ offense needs.

Samuel had an impressive 200 rushing yards, 851 receiving yards, and five total touchdowns in the 2020 season. With Samuel’s production, he will not be a budget option. He is projected to make $12.4 million annually, according to Spotrac.

However, Samuel will not command money like Allen Robinson or Kenny Golladay would in free agency. He will be a bit of a cheaper option and way younger. If the Giants are able to add the 24-year old to their roster, the Giants could boost both their rushing and passing game in 2021.

LB Matt Milano

Judge and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham forged an impressive defensive unit in 2020, and with a few additional pieces, it could be championship-caliber. Adding a rangy, run-stuffing linebacker like Matt Milano to pair up with Blake Martinez could take this defense where it wants to go in 2021.

Milano dealt with injuries in 2020, only was limited to 10 games. But in 2019, he was healthy. He played in all but one game in 2019 and produced. He finished with 101 total tackles, nine passes defended, and 1.5 sacks.

Something most people do not know about Milano, he played safety in college. For a linebacker, he has elite pass coverage skills. He could pair up beautifully right next to Martinez.

Signing the 26-year-old could be difficult given New York’s cap situation. He’s projected to have a market value of a little under $14 million annually, according to Spotrac. But if the Giants wanted to sign an elite edge rusher or cornerback this offseason, this option would be a bit cheaper as well.


New York Giants: Listing all of the defensive free agents and who should be retained

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

The New York Giants have a long off-season ahead of them, with many different decisions they have to make regarding free agent signings and retaining familiar faces. We are going to take a look at all of the defensive players hitting the free-agent market this off-season and who the Giants should retain.

However, with the salary cap expected to drop as much as $25 million from $200 million to $175 million, it will be incredibly difficult to keep some of their high priced players. They will likely have to make some sacrifices due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial castration of the cap.

New York Giants’ defensive free agents for this year:

S Adrian Colbert (Walk)

Colbert only made six appearances in 2020, earning 13 combined tackles. His influence was minimal, and the Giants need as much savings as they can possibly get, so expect them to let Colbert walk in FA.

S Nate Ebner (Keep)

Ebner’s influence is not defensive but more Special Teams oriented. He is listed as a safety, earning just 4% of defensive snaps this past season, but he is a leader on Special Teams, and I believe head coach Joe Judge values him significantly. I expect the Giants to retain him for the 2021 season.

LB Kyler Fackrell (Walk)

Kyler made some impact plays in his first season with New York, but he did miss four games. With his $4.6 million, I believe the Giants can roll that into a more productive pass rusher moving forward. Arizona Cardinals’ outside linebacker Haason Reddick stands out, and if they can lock him into a multi-year deal, I would rather roll over the cash instead of retaining Fackrell.

CB Madre Harper (Walk)

Another defensive back, Madre Harper, made nine appearances with the Giants in 2020. At 23 years old, he still has some potential left to realize, but as his Special Team snaps decreased as the season progressed, Harper found himself fighting for playing time. I believe the Giants will move on from him in 2021.

DT Austin Johnson (Keep)

Former Tennessee Titans DT Austin Johnson was actually quite productive when called upon in the trenches. Over 16 games, he picked up 18 combined tackles and 1.0 sacks while only played in 21% of defensive snaps. He is a cheap rotational option, considering he already knows Patrick Graham’s scheme, I believe keeping him would be beneficial.

CB Ryan Lewis (Keep)

Cornerback Ryan Lewis took over after the Giants released Corey Ballentine earlier in the season. He only put together five performances but showed some promise during his short stretch of action. At 26 years old, he’s an incredibly cheap player who has some potential. Keeping him around isn’t the worst idea.

DE Jabaal Sheard (Walk)

The Giants had to dip into the free-agent market to help bolster their outside linebackers unit. Jabaal Sheard was one veteran they plucked off Jacksonville’s practice squad, and he played nine games for a Big Blue. He ended up collecting 1.5 sacks for the Giants, representing a decent supplement. He’s another extremely cheap player, and while keeping him around might be beneficial, I believe the Giants want to stay younger at the position and give some of their homegrown guys a chance.

DT Dalvin Tomlinson (Walk)

One of the bigger decisions this off-season is Dalvin Tomlinson, who was drafted by the Giants in 2017. He has never missed a game in the NFL and has gradually improved every season. This past year, he collected 3.5 sacks and 49 combined tackles, including a career-high 10 quarterback hits and eight tackles for loss. In other words, he represents quality as a nose tackle who lines up in the 0 and 1-technique. Personally, I am a big fan of Tomlinson and hope the Giants can re-sign him, but they are going to have to make difficult decisions this off-season due to the cap dropping, and I believe he will be a sacrifice.

DE Leonard Williams (Keep)

Considering how fantastic Leonard Williams played in 2020, I believe GM Dave Gettleman will do everything in his power to keep him around. Considering he gave up a third and fifth-round pick two years ago for the defensive tackle, letting him walk would look really bad for Dave. Williams is going to command upwards of $18 million per season, and the Giants don’t have much money to spend, but I believe they will back-load his deal considering he hasn’t missed a game in his career either. Based on his health history, they feel confident he will be a focal point for them moving forward and is a key piece in Graham’s defense. The Giants do you have a bit of cap space in 2022 to work with, so expect them to rely on that to make any free agent signings this off-season.

New York Giants projected to keep Tomlinson but not Williams in PFF prediction

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

The New York Giants have some big choices up ahead when it comes to managing the cap, and the most apparent one is the selection of Dalvin Tomlinson or Leonard Williams. It’s looking like the Giants are going to have to choose between a more consistently solid defensive lineman and one who stepped up his game big time as of recent to contribute more in the sacks department. And if they handle things wrong, they may see the line take a big step back this year.

With the flashier numbers last season, however, it may be Leonard Williams that’s the most likely to leave in free agency. That’s what Pro Football Focus predicted when they ranked 100 free agents, including giving predictions on their destinations.

Williams was traded from the New York Jets to the New York Giants in 2019 and had to move his locker across Metlife Stadium. He may be moving much further than that after the 2020 season unless he can agree to a long-term extension with the Giants coming off the franchise tag. A second franchise tag for Williams would cost the Giants $19,351,200 (120% of his current tag) and isn’t out of the question. That number also provides a solid floor for Williams in negotiations in terms of an average per year amount.

Prediction: Panthers sign Williams for four years, $80 million ($20M APY): $47.5M total guaranteed, $32.5M fully guaranteed at signing.

On the other hand, the Giants are predicted to sign Tomlinson to a four year and $52.5 million dollar deal with $26.5 million guaranteed. Williams is rated as the 20th best free agent while Tomlinson is rated as the 39th best.

Williams raised his performance to complete the season with 11.5 sacks, the most from a Giants pass rusher in recent memory. Arguably, Williams turned into the best pass rusher the Giants have had since they fully started rebuilding.

Tomlinson on the other hand doesn’t bring in numbers as flashy as that, but has more consistently shown up for the Giants in four seasons with the team. After all, he’s started every game during those four seasons and his numbers haven’t jumped around wildly like Williams’ have.

At the end of the day, the Giants will want to keep both players, but it’s increasingly looking like they won’t be able to do that. If one of the two is going to leave, it would make sense that the more expensive of the two goes elsewhere to make more money.