There’s no doubting the on-field impact Leonard Williams makes. But will the Giants sign him to a long-term deal this offseason?
It was one single trade that set the Giants fanbase off in October 2019; a deal constructed by Dave Gettleman that sent a 2020 third-round and 2021 fifth-round selection to the Jets for Leonard Williams in the final year of his rookie contract.
Of course, the trade seemed like a complete bust initially. Why would a rebuilding franchise such as the Giants send multiple picks for a defensive end they didn’t need?
Williams’ play throughout the back half of 2019 didn’t do Gettleman any justice either. Twenty-six tackles, two tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits, and .5 sacks in eight games wasn’t the type of production that exactly satisfied fans.
Then 2020 came along, and the quality of the trade improved for the Giants. Williams was game-changing on the defensive line, racking up 57 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 30 quarterback hits, and 11.5 sacks through 16 games. He additionally recorded just a 3.4% missed tackle rate on 59 attempts, proving his on-field consistency.
But while his 2020 production improved the quality of the trade, what the Giants do with Williams this offseason will say a whole lot about the original move.
Needless to say, a long-term deal absolutely needs to be made before it’s too late. If one isn’t agreed upon, the Giants would be getting 1.5 years out of Williams (eight total wins and no playoff berths) for multiple picks — a horrific trade.
It’s a possible result the Giants cannot let occur, and in order to keep Williams around, they’ll need to break the bank, something many didn’t believe would need to be done almost a year ago when Big Blue placed the franchise tag on him.
So how much will the veteran possibly cost?
Well this past season, Williams was No. 10 among NFL defensive ends with a $16.1 million average annual salary. That price will obviously increase for 2021 and beyond.
For the Giants to retain undeniably their top pass rusher, they may need to provide him with an average annual salary of $21-25 million, which is in the pay range of Dallas’ DeMarcus Lawrence and Cleveland’s Myles Garrett.
It’s a significant amount of money and it won’t be easy to come to terms on a deal given the further potential (and eventual) asking prices of Dalvin Tomlinson, Saquon Barkley, and Jabrill Peppers (if the front office decides some or all are in the team’s long-term plans).
But the Giants retaining Williams is extremely crucial regardless of the eventual price. He’s important to the pass rush and additionally carries the talent to be a staple on what’s a situational defense — he’s good enough to be on the field for the majority of downs even if coordinator Patrick Graham utilizes rotations at different positions.
Sometimes, a talented defensive player and a coordinator who knows how to correctly utilize his personnel are a match made in heaven. Fans realized that Williams and Graham were exactly that in 2020.
The Giants cannot screw this up in any way, shape, or form. Williams is a dominant aspect of a defensive unit and overall team that’s seemingly on the up-and-up. He’s a guy that will continue to elevate your defense as a whole, and for that, you must break the bank on him and do what it takes to keep him on the roster.