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Franchise tag now available, but Giants likely don’t want to use it

Keeping Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson should be on the wish list; Using the franchise or transition tag to do it should not

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

It is Tag Day in the NFL! As of today, Feb. 23, NFL teams can begin assigning franchise or transition tags to potential free agents to keep them off the open market. The New York Giants have two players they might consider tagging — defensive linemen Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson.

Tag primer

Here are some of the rules regarding tags:

Here are the projected tag values, via Over The Cap:

What that means for the Giants is that tagging Williams for a second straight season would cost them roughly $19.4, a 20 percent hike from the $16.126 million franchise tag he played on in 2020. The franchise tag for Tomlinson would be $14.178 million and the transition tag $11.405 under this projection.

What will the Giants do?

They probably are not going to use the tag at all.

They can only tag one of the two players, and it’s hard to see them using the tag on Tomlinson. They almost certainly would like to have Tomlinson back. He is a good player, respected by his teammates, drafted by the franchise in the second round in 2017. He has expressed a preference for staying.

Paul Schwartz of the New York Post on Tuesday made the case that not keeping Tomlinson would be a blow to head coach Joe Judge in keeping players bought in to his messaging. He might have a point.

The Giants, though, can’t have Tomlinson taking up $11 million or more of cap space. So, if they are able to bring him back it’s going to have to be on a deal that keeps the 2021 cap hit down.

Williams is coming off a career-best season. He is a player the Giants need to keep. There are, arguably, two reasons for that. First, his talent and what he means to what was the Giants’ best position group last season. Second, what the Giants have already invested in him in terms of both draft capital to acquire him and money to keep him in 2020. All of that would look like a waste if Williams isn’t a Giant in 2021.

Still, using a tag to make that happen is not something the Giants are going to want to do. Because of the 20 percent raise stipulation, a $19.4 million cap hit on a cap expected to drop from $198.2 million to between $180 and $185 million is simply not palatable.

The Giants will do everything the can over the next couple of weeks to get Williams to sign a long-term deal that, again, keeps the cap hit for 2021 as low as possible.

Former Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles executive Joe Banner, writing for The 33rd Team, explained the Williams-Giants situation this way:

The Giants paid Williams a lot of money to keep him on the tag last year and did not get any future assurances. This is not the position you want to be in with your quality players when you are building a team. They just need to lock in a guy like this and move onto the next challenge. Tagging him this year will cost New York $19.35 million and means they would have paid him over $35 million in two seasons in fully guaranteed money with no long-term commitment. They will still have to give him a huge contract after this season with lots of guaranteed money to retain him. That would just not be a good use of cap management. If they like him as much as their actions seem to indicate, they need to get a long-term deal done. Now, tagging him is better than losing him, but unless he is being totally unreasonable, they are much better off signing him long-term. That avoids them having to give him more guarantees after this coming year to get that long-term deal.

Of all these guys, I think he is the guy that I would do everything possible to get something done, even if that means going beyond where I felt comfortable. It is not because I think he is a great player, but it is where they are with him as a team and the position he plays. He seems to be thriving in that scheme, and they need to do a better job of filling holes in key places. If all they are doing is tagging Williams and losing him next year, they are not making any progress in shoring up their offensive and defensive lines. They cannot keep having 5-6 of their offensive and defensive linemen in flux.