NFC Team Predicted to Steal Giants Standout With ‘Monster’ Offer

Giants re-sign Austin Johnson

Getty Nose tackles Dalvin Tomlinson #94, Austin Johnson #98 and defensive end Leonard Williams #99 of the New York Giants warm up before the start of their game against the Baltimore Ravens.

At this time a year ago, many New York Giants fans were yanking the hair out of their scalp at the thought of Leonard Williams roaming their defensive line with a $16-plus million salary attached to his name. Now, they are doing the same at the very thought of losing their star defender.

After a breakout 2020 campaign, Williams looks primed for an even grander deal this offseason, and Pro Football Focus believes he’ll find it with the Carolina Panthers.

Williams was traded from the New York Jets to the New York Giants in 2019 and had to move his locker across Metlife Stadium. He may be moving much further than that after the 2020 season unless he can agree to a long-term extension with the Giants coming off the franchise tag. A second franchise tag for Williams would cost the Giants $19,351,200 (120% of his current tag) and isn’t out of the question. That number also provides a solid floor for Williams in negotiations in terms of an average per year amount.

Prediction: Panthers sign Williams for four years, $80 million ($20M APY): $47.5M total guaranteed, $32.5M fully guaranteed at signing.

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Juggling Salary Cap & Keeping Williams

Retaining a 26-year-old Williams is seemingly priority No. 1 for the G-Men this offseason. Yet, fresh off a career-best 11.5 sacks, the California native is guaranteed to warrant massive money on the open market. Ranking as the No. 3 overall impending free-agent (top defender) via ESPN, Williams will have no shortage of potential suitors this spring.

As for the Giants, they are financially strapped at the moment. While the 2021 salary cap is not yet set in stone, all signs point towards New York having light pockets as their estimated top-51 cap space sits under $8 million, per Spotrac.

The Giants have their fair share of financial decisions ahead of them. Williams’ fellow front-seven standout, Dalvin Tomlinson, is also an impending free agent. Veterans Golden Tate and Kevin Zeitler have readily been rumored as potential cap casualties. Plus, Saquon Barkley is eligible for a contract extension this offseason.

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Williams’ Next Contract to Exceed $20M per Year?

The Giants took a gamble last offseason by placing the franchise tag on Williams. On one hand, they committed a large sum of money for the 2020 season on a player who amassed a mere 0.5 sack the year prior. On the other hand, they failed to lock up a player long-term who GM Dave Gettleman stuck his neck out to acquire just months earlier (traded a third and fifth-round pick to the Jets in exchange for Williams at the 2019 trade deadline).

New York’s failure to previously hammer out a deal with Williams now leaves them at risk of losing a cornerstone of their budding defense. His price tag has undoubtedly risen after a career-best 14 tackles for loss and 30 quarterback hits. Yet, how much will he truly warrant on the open market? A contract north of $20 million per year for the 300-pounder doesn’t appear out of the question.

Former NFL executive Scott Pioli envisions a “monster deal” for Williams on the horizon. In an NFL Network conference call with reporters earlier this week (via NJ.com), the three-time Super Bowl-winning exec detailed the decisions the Giants must balance when it comes to partaking in the Williams sweepstakes this offseason:

I’m not going to speak for the Giants and whether or not they should do a monster deal. But both sides take risk when there’s a trade and a player ends up on a new team. If you don’t know the player, just how he performs, or how he fits in with the culture. And if he’s part of your culture then maybe that’s part of the reason you don’t pay him because essentially a player like Leonard is probably, whether he had a monster year or not, he was going to demand a big second contract. Very often the second contracts for high drafted players are large so if you’re in that situation you generally want to see if he’s going to be a culture fit.

So there’s the risk of finding out that he becomes a very good player and he isn’t a culture fit, so it’s a very difficult balance. But the other thing is Williams has now been with two different places and he will understand that, obviously he wants to get paid, he should get paid, every free agent should get paid but what happens as players get older is they start to think about quality of life and where they want to be. So the Giants took a risk, Leonard took a risk and this may have worked out in Leonard’s favor. But those are the challenges that come with trading a player in the last year of his contract.

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