Retaining Leonard Williams is widely perceived as priority No. 1 in East Rutherford this offseason. Yet, according to The Athletic’s Dan Duggan, the Giants and their star defender are nowhere near reaching a new deal.
The Giants will use the next two weeks to try to sign Williams to a long-term contract. A source said that the sides aren’t close to an agreement. But it’s still early, and things can move fast in negotiations.
The window to franchise tag a player opened on Tuesday. Teams have until the March 9th deadline to tag a player, and as Duggan noted, “deadlines drive action in the NFL.” If the team cannot come to terms on a long-term deal, the organization may be pressed into once again franchising Williams as a ploy to guarantee their leading sack artist doesn’t escape their grasp.
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No Hometown Discount?
Despite some previous speculation of a semi team-friendly deal, Duggan essentially axed the idea of Williams giving the Giants a hometown discount. Simply put, if he were to ink a long-term deal in New York, it will be because the team has compensated him on par with the top-earning players, league-wide, at his position.
Yes, Williams has enjoyed his time with the Giants. But don’t expect any hometown discounts. If he signs with the Giants before free agency begins on March 15, they will need to give him an offer in the same range as Buckner and Jones.
A breakout 2020 campaign for the former no. 6 overall pick has greatly enlarged Williams’ potential earnings as we inch closer to the start of free agency. In fact, Pro Football Focus believes that should Williams hit the open market, he would yield a deal worth approximately $80 million ($47.5 million guaranteed), with an average yearly salary of $20 million.
That latter number would slot Williams with the likes of fellow prominent interior linemen, Colts’ DeForest Buckner ($21M APY) and Chiefs’ Chris Jones ($20M APY), each of whom directly trail behind the highest-priced player at the position, Rams’ Aaron Donald. The three-time defensive player of the year currently earns $22.5 million per year on average.
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Williams Deserving of Pricey Payday? Franchise Tag Incoming?
While paying Williams in the range of Aaron Donald may seem somewhat absurd on the surface, the numbers tend to back the proposition. Williams notched a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2020, second to only – you guessed it – Aaron Donald. Furthermore, Williams added 14 tackles for loss, 30 quarterback hits and 62 total pressures on the year. The latter of which ranked third among all NFL defensive linemen.
The last thing the Giants want to do is let Williams walk this offseason, meaning if a deal is not struck before March 9th, there is a great likelihood he will once again be slapped with the franchise tag. Receiving the tag would earn Williams $19.3 million in 2021. Combine that number with his 2020 tag price and Williams would go on to make $35.4 million fully guaranteed over a two-year span.
While tagging him would solve an immediate issue, it does nothing to assure his presence for the long-haul. Yes, the Giants are not the most well-equipped team financially. Yes, the team also has a contract decision to make on Dalvin Tomlinson, while extensions for stars such as Saquon Barkley and Jabrill Peppers loom. Yet, considering GM Dave Gettleman’s stubbornness to acquire and stick with Williams in the first place, the idea of not fully committing to the 26-year-old would seem almost irrational.
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