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Giants’ Leonard Williams: “I want to get a big contract”

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Because of what they have already given up, Giants might have to give it to him even if his production doesn’t warrant the expense

New York Giants v New York Jets
Leonard Williams
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Having surrendered two draft picks, one a premium early- third-round selection, in the risky Leonard Williams trade the New York Giants put themselves in the position of potentially having to overpay for an under-productive player simply to save face.

If you thought Williams’ lack of noteworthy statistical production (0 sacks, 10 tackles, 7 quarterback hits) in his four games might give the Giants an opening to sign the 25-year-old defensive lineman to a reasonable contract, think again.

It sounds like Williams, who can be a free agent at the end of the season, has every intention of holding the Giants’ feet to the fire, trying to get them to pony up premium defensive tackle money.

Here is some of what Williams told Matt Lombardo of NJ Advance Media:

“I know that I want to get a big contract, and I know that I am worth a lot,” Williams said, adding that it’s “definitely a logical possibility” that he will test free agency.

“If I don’t think they’re giving me what I think I’m worth, then obviously I think hitting free agency would make sense,” Williams said. “Everything is going to have to match up.

“I definitely think I’m a top-tier interior defensive lineman, in that top percentage of the d-linemen. I wouldn’t say Aaron Donald [level]. But I would definitely put myself up there with a lot of those other top guys.”

What hasn’t matched up, truthfully, is Williams’ production with what the 2015 No. 6 overall pick seems to think of his ability.

Williams has no sacks, 12 quarterback hits and just 30 tackles (ONE for loss) in 11 combined games with the Giants and New York Jets. Williams has only seven sacks and 15 tackles for loss over the past three seasons, encompassing 42 games.

Williams’ Pro Football Focus pass rush productivity score of 5.7 puts him an OK 19th out of 54 qualifying defensive tackles. He is only 47th of 64 qualifying tackles in run-stop percentage at 6.6.

Those are the numbers of a complementary player. A look at the top 10 salaries of defensive tackles reveals that those players make $12 million or more annually, a number that will go up with the rising salary cap.

Just a couple of comparisons:

  • Sheldon Richardson, 10th in annual defensive tackle salary at $12.3 million annually, has 3.0 sacks, 55 tackles (4 for loss), is ninth in the league in run-stop percentage and 20th in overall pass rush productivity.
  • Grady Jarrett was drafted in Round 5 of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons, the same year the Jets made Williams the sixth pick. Jarrett is now the league’s third-highest paid defensive tackle at $17 million annually. He has 11.5 sacks over the past two seasons. This season he has 5.5 sacks, 59 tackles (9 for loss), 13 quarterback hits, is fourth in the league among defensive tackles in run-stop percentage and 28th in pass rush productivity.

It’s hard to argue that Williams’ production has been anywhere close to those two players. Yet, that appears to be the level at which Williams hopes to be paid.

The party line for the Giants has been that Williams is making an impact even if he isn’t making plays or compiling stats.

“You can’t look at players always as numbers. He has been disruptive,” defensive line coach Gary Emanuel said over the weekend. “He’s doing some things against the run and the pass, he’s affecting the quarterback, he’s making him move off of his spot. He’s just missing the sack plays and things like that. But he’s having an impact on defense.”

To be paid like a big-time player, though, shouldn’t you at least occasionally make the big-time plays? Perhaps Williams will over the next four games, which might ease concerns about the Giants having to overspend in order to end up completely empty-handed after surrendering a pair of draft picks.

Perhaps Williams will test the open market during the offseason and find he doesn’t have suitors lining up to meet his price tag.

The Giants, because of what they have already given up, might be the one team forced to give Williams a contract somewhere in the neighborhood of what he seeks.

Williams appears to understand that.