Leonard Williams, Dave Gettleman
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The New York Giants trade for Leonard Williams last October is still a head-scratcher even after franchise tagging him.

Ryan Honey

On Monday, the New York Giants executed the move that fans were expecting them to make. They ultimately decided to use their non-exclusive franchise tag on Leonard Williams. Big Blue originally traded for Williams in October 2019, prior to that season’s trade deadline.

Williams was slated to become a free agent when the new league year commences on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. ET. Letting him walk or signing him to a long-term deal was a loss-loss situation for the Giants.

But tagging him? Yeah, that’s still mostly a loss.

Say they didn’t tag him and let him walk and sign with another team. That would mean they gave up multiple draft picks (2020 third-rounder and 2021 fifth-rounder) for a rental player. It’s a concept that makes no sort of sense, being that the Giants aren’t a contender in any way, shape, or form. It’s not like they had one missing piece to a championship-caliber team.

But if they signed him to a long-term deal, they would be giving up plenty of cap room to a guy that certainly doesn’t deserve it. Williams racked up just 26 combined tackles and .5 sacks in eight games with the Giants last year.

The Giants need that cap room in order to ink long-term deals with Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, and potentially Darius Slayton at some point in the future. They can’t use a good chunk of that future cash on a hit-or-miss type of player like Williams.

So New York decided to bypass either choice and tag him for $16.126 million.

Now, the Giants would only win in one single situation here. Since it’s a non-exclusive tag, other teams could look to sign Williams to a long-term deal. If an offer from another ballclub presents itself and the Giants don’t match it, New York would receive two first-round picks in compensation.

That’s very unlikely to occur though. Two first-rounders for a guy with that level of production? We’ve seen crazy things happen in the NFL, such as the DeAndre Hopkins trade that occurred most recently. But honestly, I can’t see a team wanting Williams so much as to take him off the Giants’ hands, especially when a number of first-round picks are involved.

So with the tag in-place, the Giants have three options.

The first: They sign Williams to a long-term deal by July 15, but that would bring us back to the cap space issue.

The second: They have him play under the tag. But, who’s to say Williams won’t hold out for a contract with a longer time frame? We’ve seen other players do it. What makes him any different? Over $16 million in one season is a significant amount, but wishing for financial security over a longer period of time isn’t an unheard-of scenario. That’s another problem the Giants would have on their hands when they could’ve had none with this man in the first place.

And the third: Big Blue rescinds the franchise tag and lets him hit the market, which would mean that this was, again, all a waste.

Whether it’s October 2019, March 2020, or July 2020, the crosstown-rival trade for Williams brings a great deal of risk and minimal reward to the Giants. No matter which way you look at it, Dave Gettleman really screwed up with this acquisition.

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