Cowboys Named Among Likeliest Landing Spots for Ex-Pro Bowl Defender

Giants' Leonard Williams led all NFL with 19 QB Hits

Getty Giants DL Leonard Williams gets pressure on Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

There is a legitimate chance that current New York Giants defensive tackle Leonard Williams reaches the open market, and Bleacher Report believes the Dallas Cowboys could pounce.

The digital media giant ranked the Cowboys among the five likeliest landing spots for Williams, who’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2021.

Via columnist Kristopher Knox:

Dallas has failed to remain relevant in the wake of Dak Prescott’s season-ending ankle injury, but it could still be an attractive landing spot for Williams. The Cowboys are a high-profile team, should be competitive with Prescott healthy—assuming he returns on a new contract, of course—and may have the funds to give Williams a big-money deal.

Though any new pact for Prescott will change things, Dallas is projected to have more than $33 million in cap space. The fact that Texas doesn’t have a state income tax could also help sway Williams.

The Cowboys will have a need for a pass-rusher opposite DeMarcus Lawrence, especially if Aldon Smith doesn’t re-sign. Following his own resurgent season, Smith may depart in free agency. If he does, stealing Williams from the rival Giants would be a tremendous move.

Even with Smith, the Dallas defense has been a massive liability this season, ranking dead-last in points allowed (30.8 per game). If owner Jerry Jones hopes his team will contend for a championship in the near future, he may need to open his checkbook for a free-agent defender such as Williams.

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Background on Williams

A 2015 first-round pick of the New York Jets, Williams is a dual-threat DT in that he can equally stuff the run and get after the quarterback. He spent his first five seasons with Gang Green, contributing 114 solo tackles (32 tackles for loss), 90 QB hits, and 17 sacks across 70 starts. Williams was voted to the PFWA All-Rookie Team in 2015 and the Pro Bowl in 2016.

Traded to the Giants at last year’s deadline, Williams returned to Big Blue in 2020 via the franchise tag. And New York has gotten its money’s worth. Through 13 games (nine starts), he’s totaled 43 tackles, 10 TFLs, 24 QB hits, and 8.5 sacks — a Pro Bowl-caliber stat line.

Leonard Williams 2020 Highlights (through 9 games)Leonard Williams 2020 Highlights (through 9 games)2020-11-23T19:02:28Z

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Would-Be Fit in Dallas

It goes without saying that nobody on the 2020 Cowboys outfit — DeMarcus Lawrence being the possible exception — brings to the table what Williams does. He’d instantly upgrade the league’s worst-ranked run defense and spark a dormant pass-rush that’s collected just 24 sacks as of this writing.

The Cowboys are projected to wield over $24.7 million in salary-cap space next offseason, per OverTheCap.com. They can create more with some finagling, enough to extend an offer to Williams or another outside free agent. And Dallas might need to restock the proverbial cupboard, with starting nose tackle Antwaun Woods (RFA), edge rusher Aldon Smith, and veteran DE Tyrone Crawford all slated for free agency.


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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL