I don't really post here, but since I'm (really, really) stuck at home these days, I'm going to post a lengthy screed on the Giants' offseason thus far, and I'm going to view it through the prism of Leonard Williams since he seems to be a bit of a topic these days.
To get the full picture, we'll have to start at the beginning by acknowledging that the trade for Leonard Williams was, objectively and inarguably, a terrible deal. As much as some media will offer up glancing blows, calling the deal "questionable" or "controversial," or as much as a nimrod like Paul Dottino will actually defend the trade, it was an awful trade.
Without getting into the weeds here, the Giants received eight meaningless games of Leonard Williams, an idea of his locker room personality, the right to tag him, the right to negotiate with him, and the right to find out through those negotiations that he values his services at roughly $30 million dollars per sack (which is generally a bad sign that a fair deal might get hammered out). And for this, the Dave Gettleman ceded a top-70 pick plus extra real estate on day three of the draft. Hats off to the Jets: that was some Jedi mind trick-level hoodwinking.
And I think Dave knows he got rooked. And the reason why I think this is because it seems to me that he has done all the right things to maximize the value of the hand that he dealt to himself. It seems that a great percentage of folks on this site are of the mindset that if the Giants don't sign Williams, then the trade was a bust, and another great percentage are of the mindset that Williams is a sunk cost who needs to walk. These are mindsets that are focusing too heavily on tying the past to the present: the trade was bad and therefore must be salvaged; or, the trade was bad and must be excised.
But I think Gettleman is thinking: regardless of how obscenely I overpaid for this asset, what is the best thing I can do with this asset? I really think that. The trade is done; it was terrible. How do I make the most of this?
And the answer, absent that reasonable deal that was never happening, was to tag Williams. Tagging buys Gettleman a few things. Time, obviously, to continue in his quixotic quest to negotiate a fair deal. An asset to put on the field (most likely) in 2020. And perhaps most importantly, a delay in Williams' free agency, should he choose to walk after 2020, that would allow the Giants to let him walk at a time when they will likely be spending their offseason re-signing their own free agents, offering up extensions and probably shopping at Target for unrestricted free agents instead of at Neiman Marcus. This will allow them (possibly, hopefully) to recoup a comp pick for Williams, something they would not be getting this year if they would have cut and run.
So: Williams trade = dumpster fire; letting him walk this year = doing nothing, watching it burn; signing to terrible deal to "salvage" trade = pouring gasoline in dumpster. Gettleman may have started this fire, but at least he called 9-1-1 and looked around for an extinguisher.
Then the question becomes: why the franchise tag? Why not the transition tag, which would save millions that could go to bolstering the free agent haul? Surely the Giants must have felt confident that Williams would not get a deal so large that they would have to let him walk, right? Well, I think looking at the rest of free agency tells you two things about that: (1) it wasn't worth the risk that they'd have to let him go, and (2) this is all about 2021.
If I'm right that Gettleman is doing what he can to maximize what's left of the Williams asset, then it makes sense simply to franchise him and make sure he goes nowhere. And since the Giants seem to be treating this as some kind of transition year, why not lock him in with another few million to ensure he remains with the team and walks when it would seem to be at least possibly more advantageous for him to walk?
The free agency signings seem to back up this assertion. Every single deal is designed for the Giants to take their lumps THIS year and are increasingly team-friendly throughout their (short) duration. Roster bonuses instead of signing bonuses have ensured that the cap hit is biggest in 2020. Each three-year deal has no dead money after two years; each two-year deal has no dead money after 2020. (For comparison's sake, the three most active teams in free agency in 2020 - the Dolphins, Browns and Raiders, model franchises all - went in the other direction and spread out the cap hit in most of their deals.) This will all come in handy when it is time to make decisions on Tomlinson, Peppers, Engram, Barkley, Hernandez, etc., and even Daniel Jones if we're looking deeper into the future.
Which all brings me back to Leonard Williams. I don't think you can do much better than to make some pretty bitter lemonade out of these lemons the trade has netted the Giants, unfortunately. But this does get me to thinking about Jadeveon Clowney. IF, since his market has not materialized, he is willing to do a one-year (and ONLY a one-year) deal, AND he is willing to come to New York to do his thing, wouldn't you rather have Clowney as an asset in the same situation as Williams? Taking out of the equation who brings more value to the current team (because, frankly, there are too many variables and I'm near 1000 words already), wouldn't it seem to be more likely that the guy you'd want on your team who is singing for his supper is the guy who, if he hits all the notes, either signs with you or walks for a nine-figure contract and nets a high comp pick (Clowney) over the guy who, if he hits all his notes, would prove everyone wrong and either sign for you or walk for...the same $15M/year contract that nobody thinks he's worth currently (Williams)?
I'd take a homerun swing at Clowney (which is all just fantasizing, because there has been nothing to indicate he's eyeing a one-year deal with the Giants) over Williams if given the choice and opportunity. This way, you could say (perversely) that you turned Leonard Williams into Jadeveon Clowney.
Hell, it's the only way the Giants could even entertain the fantasy of getting that jettisoned third-rounder back!