It’s safe to say that last year’s mid-season addition of Leonard Williams is one of Dave Gettleman’s less well-received roster moves over his two-year span with the New York Giants.
Gettleman sent multiple draft picks, including a third-rounder in last month’s Draft, to acquire Williams from the Jets in late October of last year. A move that, approximately seven months later, still leaves the masses dumbfounded.
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Gettleman Takes Heat for Leonard Williams Move
Bill Barnwell of ESPN recently ranked the 2020 offseasons for all 32 NFL teams. Barnwell applauded the Giants’ additions of free-agent signee James Bradberry and 1st-round pick Andrew Thomas. However, New York’s insistence of doubling down on the Leonard Williams trade by slapping the franchise tag on him was too drastic of a misstep for Barnwell to look over. In return, pushing Big Blue to the middle of the pack in his rankings, checking in at No. 14.
What went wrong: Gettleman also placed the franchise tag on defensive lineman Leonard Williams, doubling down on the inexplicable trade he made to acquire Williams for a going-nowhere Giants team last season. Williams will make $16.2 million and attempt to have his long-awaited breakout season in 2020, while New York will send a fourth-round pick in 2021 to the Jets to go with the third-rounder it shipped this past draft. Williams proceeded to file a grievance in the hopes of being repositioned as a defensive end, which would earn the former USC star an additional $1.7 million.
Should NY Have Let Williams Walk?
Barnwell didn’t stop there. The ESPN writer insinuated that Gettleman should have essentially swallowed his pride, admitted that the Williams trade was a personal “folly,” and moved on from the d-lineman this offseason.
What they could have done differently: Letting Williams leave would have been embarrassing given the original trade, but given the circumstances, the Giants should have treated Gettleman’s folly like a sunk cost and moved on accordingly. (Contrary to Gettleman’s expectations in December, they would not have earned a third-round compensatory pick for letting Williams leave, because he wasn’t likely to net the sort of offer that would have resulted in such a significant return. They also would have netted that pick only if they sat out the top end of free agency, which would have kept them from signing Bradberry.) They could have used the money they saved to sign Jadeveon Clowney, a more talented player at their most obvious weakness.
Williams’ stat line during his seven-game stretch with the Giants in 2019 has certainly left a sour taste in the mouth of most New Yorkers. A whopping 0.5 sacks is surely not what you think of when you envision a “franchise player.” Williams’ decision to file a grievance against Big Blue only adds more of a negative connotation to an already perceived failed trade.
However, I would warn Giants fans against harping on the past and what-ifs. Barnwell points to the idea that letting Williams walk this offseason could have netted them Jadeveon Clowney in return. Yet, from all accounts, the Giants-Clowney rumors earlier this offseason seem to have been more of a folktale than a realistic scenario.
Gettleman’s quote earlier this offseason of “you can’t manufacture (pass rush), and you can’t overpay for it,” should only strengthen that belief.
Williams is Better Than He is Perceived
Williams will likely never be a double-digit sack artist. However, he’s still an above-average piece amongst a potentially dominant Giants defensive line.
Per Pro Football Focus, Williams led all interior d-lineman in QB hits with 19 in 2019, five more than the next closest player. He also accumulated a pressure rate of 11.3%, 13th among interior d-lineman, while also ranking 11th amongst all interior d-lineman in total pressures.
The more people stop hating Williams for what he’s not, and begin to appreciate him for what he is, they’ll quickly realize the Giants are a better football team with the former sixth-overall draft pick than without him.