giants' week 1 defensive starters dalvin tomlinson
Courtesy IG: @leonardwilliams

The Giants have taken the next step towards retaining Leonard Williams on a long-term deal. Big Blue will franchise tag the 26-year-old.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday morning the Giants are expected to franchise tag Leonard Williams. This comes after Williams underwent likely the best season of his career, leading the team in both sacks (11.5) and quarterback hits (30).

However, the franchise tag may not stick, but instead be used as a placeholder for a long-term deal to eventually come to fruition in the future.

Per ESPN’s Jordan Raanan, the two sides wish for that potential contract.

This was probably the only reason the Giants were to franchise tag Williams. Having him actually play for the second consecutive season under the tag was unlikely due to its price — which is unclear at the moment, but either way, expensive.

The tag price is 120% of Williams’ 2020 salary, a salary that’s currently $16.1 million (the defensive tackle franchise tag price) but could be $17.8 million (the defensive end franchise tag). The grievance Williams filed to receive the defensive end tag still hasn’t been resolved, so his 2021 tag price may either be 120% of $16.1 million ($19.4 million) or 120% of $17.8 million ($21.4 million).

Either way, it’s best to go with the long-term deal instead, which could provide Williams with an average annual value of approximately $20 million. If you’re going to pay him around $20 million per year, you might as well choose the option that keeps him in East Rutherford for years to come.

The organization, however, must add cap space — something it doesn’t carry a ton of at the moment. The Giants own a little bit more than $13 million in space as of Tuesday with potential deals for both Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson looming. While the former may get the aforementioned annual value, the latter could receive around $10 million per year to remain with a defensive unit that found great on-field production last season.

The Giants could ink either to a deal that doesn’t carry heavy cap hits for 2021 though, a move that would financially assist the team in the wake of other potential re-signings such as edge rusher Kyler Fackrell and offensive tackle Cameron Fleming. Not to mention, Big Blue will require additional cap for rookie contracts along with in-season emergencies for the upcoming campaign.

Although the tag isn’t likely to stick, this is potentially the best decision the Giants could’ve made with Williams at this moment in time. Either side wants to come to terms on a deal and the tag buys time for that to ultimately occur.

Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.