EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - NOVEMBER 10: Leonard Williams #99 of the New York Giants in action against the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 10, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The 2020 season will undoubtedly be a pivotal one in the career of New York Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams.  

Now that Wednesday’s deadline has come and gone for players who were given the franchise tag to work out a long-term deal, New York Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams will play the 2020 season making $16.126 million, making him one of the highest-paid defensive linemen in the league.

It came as no surprise that general manager Dave Gettleman and Williams didn’t reach a deal. For one, we’re not sure what the salary cap will be like next season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Williams needs to show that he can play at a high level to earn a lengthy and lucrative contract.

Gettleman came under fire last season when he traded a third-round 2020 draft pick that the New York Jets used to take Ashtyn Davis, and a 2021 fifth-round pick to acquire Williams from their crosstown rival. The fifth-round pick could turn into a fourth-round pick if the Giants and Williams are able to work out a deal before March of 2021.

The Jets took Williams with the sixth-overall pick in the 2015 draft out of USC and he made the Pro Bowl in his second season. In his first four seasons, he registered 220 tackles and 17 sacks.

The Giants already had a formidable defensive line starting rotation with Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J Hill, and rookie Dexter Lawrence, which is why this move left so many people scratching their heads.

The addition of Williams would not change the team’s fortunes. They were 2-6 in the eight games prior to Williams’s arrival and would go 2-6 with him. The Giants run defense would improve as they gave up an average of 122.37 yards on the ground before Williams arrived, to 104.12 yards per game over the last eight games of the season.

However, for whatever reason, when Williams arrived, the Giants were less successful at bringing down opposing quarterbacks. In the first eight games of the season, they registered 22 sacks, to just 14 sacks over the last half of the season.

In his eight games with Big Blue, Williams had 26 tackles, a forced fumble, and half a sack.

As we know, statistics don’t always show how productive a player is performing and at times Williams showed that he can play at a high level. But when a player such as Williams as one of the highest-paid at his position, you want them to make impactful plays that help the team win.

This season is crucial to the career of the 26-year-old Williams. The Giants are hopeful that under new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, Williams can reach his full potential, and show that he deserves a long-term lucrative deal. But if he plays similar to how he’s played in his first five years in the league, there’s no way he’ll be in the team’s plans for 2021, especially with Tomlinson also set to be a free agent.

The pressure is on Williams to prove to his doubters that he can be one of the best defensive linemen in the league. More than any other Giants, the 2020 season will be a make or break one for Williams.

Jason's first love was football while growing up in northern New Jersey. For the past three years, he has covered the New York Giants, as well as several boxing events along the East Coast.