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New York Giants franchise tag DT Leonard Williams

Giants won’t let defensive lineman reach free agency

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Unwilling to let him enter free agency after surrendering two draft picks to get him at last season’s trade deadline, the New York Giants are placing the franchise tag on defensive lineman Leonard Williams. The Giants made that official via an announcement on the team’s website late Monday morning.

In that announcement, the Giants call Williams “a disruptive defender against both the run and pass” and add that the move “gives the two sides time to negotiate a long-term contract.”

The tag gives the Giants and Williams until July 15 to work out a long-term deal. If that doesn’t happen, Williams will play the 2020 season under the tag.

The Giants gave the New York Jets a 2020 third-round pick (68th overall) and a conditional 2021 fifth-round pick. Various reports indicated that the tag does not change that conditional pick. A long-term deal between Williams and the Giants by the start of the league year would convert that to a fourth-round pick.

What this means for the Giants

GM Dave Gettleman said at the NFL Scouting Combine that he knew “I’ll get killed” by the media and the fan base if Williams was not back with the Giants in 2020. It’s a good thing he added that he’s got “thick rhino hide,” because he’s going to get killed, anyway.

The official tag number for Williams appears to be $16.126 million — a lot of money for a player who produced a half-sack, 46 tackles and 16 quarterback hits in 15 games combined with the Giants and Jets. The tag is based on a calculation of the average of the top five salaries from his position.

Before tagging Williams, Over The Cap was reporting that the Giants had $72.761 million in cap space, fourth-most in the league. If the Giants and Williams were to reach a long-term deal that would enable the Giants to lower Williams 2020 cap hit by spreading his signing bonus across multiple seasons.

The Giants will hope that Williams, who will only be 26 during the upcoming season, can return to the form that saw him notch 10 sacks over his first two seasons after the Jets selected him sixth overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. He is a good, versatile player who did help the Giants in the eight games he played last season. He simply did not produce big numbers of his own.

Williams becomes the first big piece in what is expected to be a massive defensive rebuild for the Giants under new head coach Joe Judge and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.

There has been some speculation that the Giants could target Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown with their first pick. With Williams back in the fold, along with Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill, it’s hard to see the Giants going in that direction when they will have holes in other places on the roster.