Leonard Williams’ tenure with the Giants has never sat all that well.
Former general manager Dave Gettleman overpaid the Jets for the defensive tackle in a surprising deal at the 2019 trade deadline. The Giants then had to place the franchise tag on Williams in 2020 given the investment they had made in him. Williams had a big season with 11.5 sacks, so they had to tag him again before signing him to a three-year, $63 million deal with $45 million guaranteed. He then he proceeded to have another so-so year in 2021. And the Giants stunk through it all.
That brings us to 2022. Williams has the team’s biggest salary cap hit this year. Barring another big season, this will likely be his final one with the Giants — general manager Joe Schoen will be able to cut him next spring and save $18 million in cap space.
If that does happen, Williams might have suitors lining up. He was among the honorable mention names in ESPN’s annual ranking of the NFL’s top-10 defensive tackles based on a poll of the league.
Williams had a solid 2021 season with 6.5 sacks and 81 tackles on a bad Giants defense. Many evaluators agree he’d be in the top five based on talent. “He’s got more athleticism than most,” an AFC executive said. “He’s underachieved somewhat, but he’s on a bad football team. Talented dude.” Williams’ 6.2% pass rush win rate (111th in the NFL) last season was unimpressive.
Not exactly what you want from a guy with a $27.3 million cap figure this fall. But that’s on the Giants for giving him the deal after setting themselves up for the circumstances that led to it. They will get what they can out of him, and then get out from under the deal. At which point Williams will inevitably end up landing a short-term, likely incentive-heavy deal with a good team.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]