The Wednesday deadline for NFL teams to sign long-term deals with the players they labeled with the franchise tag came and went without the Giants announcing a new deal with defensive lineman Leonard Williams.
The Giants acquired Williams from the Jets in the middle of last season for a third-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft (which it used for safety Ashtyn Davis) and a fifth-round pick in the 2021 draft. Williams was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2015 draft and made the 2016 Pro Bowl, but his play only was middling during those last eight games; he recorded just one half of a sack and improved the run defense only slightly. Still general manager Dave Gettleman made the bold move of affixing the franchise tag to him in March.
Because negotiations between the Giants and Williams did not produce a long-term deal, he will play this coming season for the Giants and then hit the free-agent market. As a defensive tackle, the franchise tag will earn him $16.1 million (though he has filed a grievance stating he is a defensive end, which would earn him $17.7 million) and is the club’s highest-paid defensive player. The Giants still may want to re-sign Williams after the season if he thrives in the defense of new coordinator Patrick Graham.
Because Williams wears the franchise tag, the Giants would receive an extra draft pick in 2021 if he signs elsewhere after this season.
The Giants however are heavily invested in Williams, having already given up two draft picks for him and his 2020 salary, and hope that his play improves and something long term ultimately is reached.
Over his five seasons, Williams has recorded 17 ½ sacks and made 34 tackles for a loss; during his eight games with the Giants last season he has just the half sack and two tackles for a loss.
Neither Williams nor Gettleman was made available for comment.