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Giants put franchise tag on Leonard Williams

Leonard Williams #99 of the New York Giants

Leonard Williams #99 of the New York Giants reacts after sacking Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first half at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 2 in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: Getty Images/Sarah Stier

The Giants placed a franchise tag on Leonard Williams on Tuesday, hoping to remove it in favor of a long-term contract within a week. The team is continuing negotiations toward a long-term contract with the defensive lineman that would, among other things, alleviate the $19.5 million direct salary cap hit associated with the tag.

Such a cost would financially cripple the organization on the eve of free agency. The team now has until the start of the league year – 4 p.m. on March 17 – to either sign Williams or eat that hefty number which could amount to more than 10% of the entire cap. Based on estimations for the cap and the Giants’ contracts, they are believed to have about $6 million in space heading into 2021. They would have to more than triple that, and use all of it on Williams, if he is still tagged next week.

"Obviously it certainly makes it a little more difficult," general manager Dave Gettleman said on Tuesday of carrying the tag into the start of the 2021 league year, "but we’ll operate and we’ll manage."

With a long-term contract they could spread out the financial hit over a number of years. While the cap is expected to be lower this season because of the financial crunch of the pandemic, most believe it will rise substantially in ensuing years since broadcast contracts currently are being negotiated.

At the very least, the tag virtually ensures Williams will be with the Giants in 2021. It prevents other teams from signing him as a free agent without giving the Giants the steep compensation of a first-round draft pick. Williams, who played under the franchise tag in 2020, was one of the team’s top defensive players and recorded a career-high 11.5 sacks.

It also indicates the Giants will part ways with another top defensive lineman, Dalvin Tomlinson. The 2017 second-round pick and defensive captain last season will become a free agent next week and likely receive contract offers the Giants will be unable to match. The Giants have known all offseason that it would be difficult to keep both Williams and Tomlinson.

"We have a lot of love for Dalvin as a person and as a player," head coach Joe Judge said on Tuesday. "I can’t say enough good things about him… [but] there is a process every team has to go through this time of year through free agency and all of that will be addressed when the time comes."

New York Sports