new york giants leonard williams
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Will the New York Giants utilize their lone franchise tag on star defensive lineman Leonard Williams? How much would it cost?

Ryan Honey

One of the more significant timeframes of the NFL offseason commenced on Tuesday. From that day (Feb. 23) until Tuesday, March 9, teams are able to utilize the single franchise tag they possess.

While the tag’s usage is not mandatory, it could assist teams who need another year to figure out whether they want to keep (and thus pay) a certain player for the long term. The intangible weapon may additionally serve as a placeholder so teams can still have enough time to work out a potential long-term deal with a tagged player that same offseason.

The New York Giants could find themselves placing the tag on Leonard Williams for the latter aforementioned reason.

It would be the second consecutive year the Giants used the tag on the veteran defensive lineman, but for a different purpose. Last offseason, Big Blue didn’t want to get just half a season out of him after trading for him in 2019 and it wanted to give up a fifth-round pick for him in 2021 instead of a fourth. Signing him to a long-term deal before the 2020 league year would’ve led to the Giants providing the Jets (their trade partner) with the latter type of selection.

A lucrative investment in him, at that time, would’ve been tough to make as well, given his low 2019 production.

But now this year, it’d be different. It’s already set in stone the Jets will be receiving a 2021 fifth-rounder and Williams is surely a defensive asset the Giants want to employ for years to come. He underwent arguably the best season of his career in 2020, leading the team with 11.5 sacks and 30 quarterback hits and contributing to what was the organization’s best defensive performance in years.

The Giants, therefore, need to make sure they correctly handle the eventual contract negotiations to ensure they retain one of their top defensive players, and utilizing the franchise tag to provide themselves with more time could help them do just that.

So if Big Blue does indeed place what would be a $19.4 million franchise tag on the 26-year-old, there are a few scenarios that could play out from there.

Williams is in it for the long haul

As previously mentioned, both parties — the team and Williams — could subsequently come to an agreement on a long-term deal, which would need to occur by mid-July. Williams might be requesting a per-year salary of around $20 million or potentially more, which would be an average salary higher than the franchise tag price but would keep him on the roster for a lengthier period of time.

A second team in the mix?

Another team could also try to sign him to a long-term contract after the Giants franchise tagged him (as long as it’s the non-exclusive tag), but that’s unlikely. If another team offered a deal, the Giants would possess the opportunity to match it, but if Williams accepted the other team’s offer, the Giants would be rewarded with two first-round draft picks as compensation.

Just FYI, Williams is good, but it’s tough to imagine many teams giving up two first-rounders for him.

Another year on the tag

A third scenario would encompass the Giants tagging Williams but, for one reason or another, not agreeing to a long-term deal prior to the July deadline. This would keep Williams in blue for at least one more season under a $19.4 million deal, and hopefully the Giants would be able to come to terms on a long-term contract next offseason should either party wish for him to remain in East Rutherford at that time.

To conclude: Time will tell Williams’ fate

Williams deserves that lengthy and expensive contract. He was a star last year and a huge aspect of a Giants pass rush and overall defensive unit that greatly improved from 2019. However, the organization needs to make sure it’s patient and constructs a deal that’s beneficial for either side, and in order to do that, the franchise tag could be implemented to buy enough time.

Don’t be surprised if that’s the move the Giants pull unless an extension is agreed to before March 9.

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