Giants may have to pay through the nose for DL Leonard Williams

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Defensive lineman Leonard Williams has the New York Giants exactly where he wants them.

Williams, 25, is an impending free agent. He could command at least $10 million a year on the open market.

In one of the more puzzling trade deadline deals, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman sent a 2020 third-round and 2021 fifth-round pick to the stadium mate New York Jets to have Williams’ services for the final half of a 4-12 season. If the Giants re-sign Williams, the 2021 fifth-round pick becomes a fourth-rounder.

Williams’ play on the field has been solid yet unspectacular. He can contribute but he is not a star.

According to NFL NextGen Stats, Williams was second on the team to Markus Golden in hurries with 14. His 20 quarterback pressures were behind Golden and Lorenzo Carter. However, Williams needed 12 games to record a tackle for a loss and didn’t get a piece of a sack until Week 17. In fact, Williams (the No. 6 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft out of USC) has just 17.5 sacks in five seasons.

The Giants are in a quandary with Williams. The team could elect to use the franchise or transition tag on him. If the franchise tag is applied to Williams, the Giants would have him for 2020 at $16 million if he is considered a defensive tackle. That price tag is steep for a player of Williams’ production…or lack thereof.

The transition tag would be a little less, around $13 million. However, applying the transition tag would allow other teams to make offers to Williams. If the Giants choose not to match, he would leave with no compensation. It is doubtful another team would make an offer for Williams knowing the Giants would be inclined to match anything approaching market value or beyond.

At the same time, the Giants liked what they saw. Their defense allowed 3.70 yards per rushing attempt (fifth in the NFL) over the final eight games of the season with Williams in the lineup.

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“We felt we needed him,” Gettleman said. “Again, we felt good about it and we feel, and he’s proven, he’s disruptive in there. He’s proven, he’s disruptive in there. He improved our rushing defense with him there, he buzzes around the quarterback, we’ve got to get him to finish now. But the bottom line is we felt it was worth the deal. The juice was worth the squeeze.”

It also appears Williams doesn’t want to go anywhere.

“I’m not the type of person that likes to bounce around a lot,” Williams said in an ESPN interview earlier in the season. “I’d like to be able to stay on this team and hopefully be a part of the rebuilding process to get this team back to a winning program again. I don’t think the money matters as much for me. Obviously, I want to get paid, as every player wants to. This is a business now. You clearly want to get paid for your play, but at the same time, I don’t think that is the most important thing for me.”

Only four free agents at Williams’ position project to earn at least $10 million according to Pro Football Focus and the website overthecap.com: the Kansas City ChiefsChris Jones, the Houston TexansD.J. Reader, the Pittsburgh SteelersJavon Hargrave, and Williams. Numbers are often guidelines in negotiations. Williams’ play wasn’t spectacular. The problem for the Giants is that there may be a team willing to overpay for Williams even if they don’t want to.

According to sources, the Giants have already held preliminary discussions with most of their key free agents. They don’t appear to be in any hurry as their coaching staff (including head coach Joe Judge and defensive line coach Sean Spencer, who will help determine Williams’ future) are still getting settled for the most part. Free agency will not begin until Mar. 18.

– Curtis Rawls is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage and covers the NFL and the New York Giants. Please like and follow on Facebook and Twitter. Curtis can be followed on Twitter @CuRawls203.

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