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Leonard Williams “a piece you can build around,” says Giants GM Dave Gettleman

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Trade explained in letter to season ticket holders

New York Jets v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Why did New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman make the trade with the New York Jets for defensive tackle Leonard Williams? In an interview with the team’s official website that was shared with season ticket holders, Gettleman explained that he thought Williams, 25, was “a piece you can build around.”

Gettleman admitted that he initiated the process that led to the trade by reaching out to Jets GM Joe Douglas.

“It’s a great add for us moving forward because you have to build this thing brick by brick,” Gettleman said. “We have one of the youngest teams in the league and this for us is a very strong add. It’s a process. This is a talented young football player who we can add to the other talented young kids that we have, a group that includes Daniel Jones, Saquon (Barkley), B.J. Hill, Lorenzo Carter, Will Hernandez, Evan (Engram) and Sterling (Shepard), among others.

“Leonard is not just a run defender, not just a pass rusher. He’s a legitimate three-down player.”

Since taking the job late in 2017, Gettleman has expressed the desire to build a deep rotation of defensive linemen, as well as an intent to focus on building both the offensive and defensive lines.

“It gives us a really strong inside defensive tackle rotation,” Gettleman said. “We’re very happy with the progress that B.J. Hill is making. We’re happy with Dexter Lawrence and Dalvin Tomlinson. We’re very happy with our defensive tackle group, but you’re always looking to get better. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Defensive tackles line up closer to the quarterback than defensive ends.

“Leonard is a legitimate pass rusher,” Gettleman said. “He’s been to the Pro Bowl (in 2016). He’s the old man of the group at 25, which is really pretty funny. He’s never missed a game. He’s a great human being. He’s a great teammate.”

Gettleman was expected by most to focus on trading veterans and acuiring draft capital at the deadline. Instead, he used some of the team’s draft capital — a 2020 third-round pick and a 2021 fifth-rounder than can become a fourth-rounder — to make the deal for Williams.

“It’s a great add for us moving forward because you have to build this thing brick by brick,” Gettleman said. “We have one of the youngest teams in the league and this for us is a very strong add. It’s a process. This is a talented young football player who we can add to the other talented young kids that we have, a group that includes Daniel Jones, Saquon (Barkley), B.J. Hill, Lorenzo Carter, Will Hernandez, Evan (Engram) and Sterling (Shepard), among others.

“Leonard is not just a run defender, not just a pass rusher. He’s a legitimate three-down player.”

The gamble for Gettleman and the Giants is that Williams can be a free agent at the end of the season.

“We gave up a three and a five. Our goal is to sign him long-term,” Gettleman said. “He’s only 25 years old. And obviously talented. He’s a piece you can build around.”