The Giants used the franchise tag on Leonard Williams on Monday to keep the defensive lineman on their roster for the 2020 season. It’s a tool that has been in the NFL since 1993, one that the Giants have used sparingly and with a wide range of results.
In fact, only one player has ever actually signed his tender and played under the franchise tag for the Giants.
That would be the first player tagged by the Giants, Jumbo Elliott. The offensive tackle was tagged in 1993, the first season it was available to teams. Elliott wound up being named a Pro Bowler that season and remained with the Giants for two more seasons before he signed with the Jets as a free agent.
After that, the Giants shelved the designation for about a decade and a half. It wasn’t until 2009 that they next applied the franchise tag to a player and used it on Brandon Jacobs. The running back never signed the contract, and he was under the tag for only about a week. The team used the extra time and virtually exclusive negotiating period to reach a new long-term contract with Jacobs.
Three years later, the Giants used the tag again, this time on punter Steve Weatherford. He was downright giddy about being tagged, knowing that it meant a guaranteed salary and a chance to return to the Giants to help defend their Super Bowl title in 2012. Like Jacobs, though, there was barely enough time to explain the nuances of a franchise tag before it became moot and Weatherford signed a long-term deal.
The franchise tag became a way for the Giants to buy themselves some time to iron out those long-term deals, and that was what they expected to happen in 2015 when they used it on Jason Pierre-Paul. The defensive end went into the summer without having signed his contract, but there were very few who doubted that a deal would be in place – either through the signing of the tag offer or in the form of a new long-term deal – before training camp opened.
Then the Fourth of July rolled around. And that was that. Pierre-Paul lost fingers on his hand in a fireworks accident, the long-term offer the Giants had on the table was rescinded, and there was concern that Pierre-Paul would never again play in the NFL nevermind for the Giants.
Months later, Pierre-Paul returned to the Giants and somehow managed to play in the final eight games of the 2015 season … on a new contract for that half season. He signed a one-year deal the next year. He never did sign his tag contract.
When Pierre-Paul became a free agent again in 2017, the Giants used the franchise tag on him a second time. Unlike the previous one, this time the tag and negotiations on a long-term deal never got close to the Fourth of July. In a matter of weeks, Pierre-Paul signed a four-year contract. He only played one year of that deal for Big Blue, though, and was traded to the Bucs prior to the 2018 season.
What will the future hold for Williams if the Giants use the franchise tag on him? If Giants history plays anything into it, it’s anyone’s guess.