Former New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum believes there are “windows” of opportunity for the New York Giants to keep both of their high-priced free agent defensive linemen, Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson.
Appearing as a guest on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast, Tomlinson joined the chorus of NFL talent evaluators who believe the Giants have to prioritize Williams if they can only retain one of the two players.
“Leonard Williams has played well since going through the unusual journey of Jets to Giants. He impacts the game,” Tannenbaum said. “He gets doubled a lot … sometimes for defensive linemen it’s hard to quantify what someone’s production is beyond the sacks. He’s a great example of it. I see him as a young, ascending player with pass rush ability who draws a double team.”
Tannenbaum said that Tomlinson, more of a pure run defender, has a skill set that is “a little bit more replaceable.”
Tannenbaum added, however, that quarterback Daniel Jones still being on a rookie contract means “You can keep them all,” although not without cutting or re-structuring the contracts of other high-priced veterans.
“They have a lot of holes on this team, we all know that. To say we’re going to fortify the defensive line, I think that’s a great place to start,” Tannenbaum said.
“While Tom Brady got the headlines, when you look at Tampa Bay, they had a really deep defensive line. To keep both to me is not out of the question.”
Tannenbaum, Jets GM from 2006-2012 and Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the Miami Dolphins from 2015-2018, also said there is an intangible reason for keeping a respected player like Tomlinson.
“You want to send the right message to the locker room that, hey, Tomlinson was drafted there, he’s been a good player, let’s face it, he’s not an elite player, but he’s a good, solid player and it send the right message that hey look, when you do the right things you’re going to be rewarded.’’
Tannenbaum recalled cutting veteran wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery from the Jets after the 2010 season.
“I think the locker room does an underrated job of keeping some checks and balances from a GM perspective,” Tannenbaum said. “I thought the locker room was going to kill me. They were right and I was wrong.
“He was probably at that point a B player, declining, it was towards the end of his career. But he had solved so many of the problems in the locker room that I didn’t realize.”
On Daniel Jones
Tannenbaum compared Jones’ development to that of New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, who may or may not be with the Jets for 2021. Tannenbaum said Jones is “clearly ahead” of Darnold, although “compelling” arguments can be made on either side of the “are the Giants right to stick with Jones” debate.
“I think his ceiling has shown to be higher than Sam’s. They both have the same problem with turnovers and questionable decision-making, but his athleticism shows up,” Tannenbaum said.
“He’s a great athlete and that shows up, that translates. You see a lot of good things and if you believe in the axiom that the tape sets the floor and the character sets the ceiling, boy you want to bet on this guy.”
Tannenbaum said, though, that at some point Jones needs to clearly reward that faith.
“At some point greatness is gonna show up. Let’s go! Take the team over and show that you’re a great quarterback,” Tannenbaum said. “There’s always going to be excuses … I think he’s flashed, but at some point we need to see it multiple weeks in a row.”
On Dave Gettleman
The Giants are, of course, sticking with Gettleman despite three losing seasons at the beginning of his tenure as general manager.
“I really like and respect Dave a ton. It’s a tough seat to sit in, it just is. There’s no getting around it,” Tannenbaum said “I think he has the right personality for the job. In that market Dave’s disposition actually serves him well. He really doesn’t care what other people think. Some of us say it, but he actually means it and I think that’s really important.”
Tannenbaum said there is “some legitimacy” to arguments against some of Gettleman’s major decisions, but indicated 2021 can wipe some of that away.
“If we’re having this conversation in a year and the Giants win eight or nine games and joe Judge and Daniel Jones are tied to a hip he deserves credit for that. No one’s going to bat a thousand,” Tannenbaum said. “Look, the results on the field you can certainly argue and say haven’t been there but if the two most important decisions are Judge and Jones you’ve gotta give him the benefit of the doubt right now because Joe Judge seems like he’s going to be a really good coach.”
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